“Why Do So Many Incompetent Men Become Leaders?” by Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic

 

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Thanks to Harvard Business Review Press and Netgalley for the advance review copy. 

Once I read the title of this book, I knew I had to read it. Yes, it’s a little clickbait-y but it’s certain to grab attention and get people talking. In my current role my team and I work to develop leadership skills in our organisation, and we’re often left scratching our heads as to what these should be, how we can develop them and what the barriers to leadership are, particularly for women.  

This book is quite unusual as it throws out the “fake it till you make it” advice that is often given to aspiring female leaders and eschews the type of “lean in” approach suggested by Sheryl Sanberg. It is peppered with current examples used to illustrate the points made and covers a wide range of topics current in leadership thinking such as self-awareness, resilience and emotional intelligence. It also touches upon some less discussed themes such as narcissism and psychopathy and argues that for no good reason these traits have been valued for leaders to possess. 

The book is clearly well researched and draws from a wealth of evidence and studies. Particularly interesting was the research evidence around how there is really very little difference between the genders and the exploration around misunderstandings about confidence vs competence (“Competence is how good you are at something. Confidence is how good you think you are at something”) and how what is traditionally valued in business doesn’t actually translate into tangible results and in many cases leads to team dysfunction and poor outcomes. The author argues that for women there is a Catch 22 where “traditional” leadership characteristics such as assertiveness are seen as masculine and unappealing for women to possess yet when women fail to demonstrate these traits they are seen and not having leadership potential. 

The title will put some people off and anger others, it’s controversial. The book doesn’t really touch much on what the solutions might be, and it makes some bold claims e.g. “the best and most accurate measures of psychological capital are psychometric tests” but it certainly provides a lot of food for thought. If you take a look, you’ll see there is a lot of common sense here. I would particularly recommend this book for those involved in recruitment, leadership development and aspiring leaders both male and female.

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