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June Book Review: Why Do So Many Incompetent Men Become Leaders? (and how to fix it)

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    No really, why?

    Professor of business psychology at Columbia, Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic explored this topic in a Harvard Business Review article in 2013, where it quickly became the most-read article on the site. Though his book of a similar title only released in March of this year, we had to snap it up and find out, why do incompetent men hold leadership positions in so many fields? Despite what the title may suggest, this is not necessarily a gendered issue. Just about everyone, male or female, has been a victim of an incompetent boss, manager, or supervisor (who, the author argues, is almost always a man).

Chamorro-Premuzic addresses the psychological reasons that men achieve leadership roles more frequently than women of similar (or better) qualifications. He talks at great length about how charismatic narcissism and psychopathic tendencies - traits more typically found in men - are considered beneficial in many business environments. However, while people who are charismatic and narcissistic often appear to be confident and capable, the author states very clearly that “there is in fact no relationship between confidence and competence.” Chamorro-Premuzic addresses why it is hard for any competent individual to become a leader when they are overshadowed by incompetent charisma; this is particularly true for women. This is deeply at odds with the mountains of independent research indicating that businesses achieve greater profitability with women at the helm.   

   The first half of the book mirrored its Harvard Business Review counterpart, “Why Do So Many Incompetent Men Become Leaders?” but the second half puts its focus on the subtitle: “and how to fix it”. Chamorro-Premuzic provides in great detail steps that can be taken to mitigate incompetent male leadership (broadening job searches to include gender diversity, continuous leadership training, utlizing metrics to gauge performance etc.) however, as simple as these steps sound it is not enough to just hire a “leader” . In fact, the author cites that 75% of hiring decisions are made purely on instinct - which is obviously a terrible metric for hiring practices - and instinct tends to favour charisma and confidence over talent or capability.

Ultimately, like most issues in the workplace, everything comes down to culture. We would be doing a disservice to the book’s message if we tried to summarize all of the valuable takeaways and leadership advice. Truly, there is just too much. We highly recommend this book to any individual (male or female!) looking to improve their leadership skills, and to organizations that are looking to improve their internal culture, and therefore their bottom line.

We at Genderversity give “Why Do So Many Incompetent Men Become Leaders? (and how to fix it)” 5/5

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Bailey DavallComment