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Why do so many incompetent men become leaders?

Most leaders fail. That has always been the case: the majority of nations, companies, societies and organizations are poorly managed. Their incompetence is indicated by their longevity, revenues, and approval ratings, or by the effects they have on their citizens, employees, subordinates and members. Good leadership has always been the exception, not the norm.

The paradox is that the psychological characteristics that enable male managers to rise to the top of the corporate or political ladder, are actually responsible for their downfall. In other words, what it takes to get the job is not only differing from, but also the reverse of, what it takes to do the job well. As a result, too many incompetent people are promoted to management jobs, and promoted over more competent people.

The main reason for the uneven sex ratio in management jobs is our inability to discern between confidence and competence. That is, because we – people in general – commonly misinterpret displays of confidence as a sign of competence. We are fooled into believing that men are better leaders than women. That is to say, when it comes to leadership, the only advantage that men have over women is the fact that manifestations of hubris — often masked as charisma or charm — are commonly mistaken for leadership potential.

The truth of the matter is that pretty much anywhere in the world, men tend to think that they are much smarter than women. Yet, arrogance and overconfidence are inversely related to leadership talent — the ability to build and maintain high performing teams, as well as inspiring followers to set aside their selfish agendas beneficial to the common interest of the group.

Most of the character traits that are truly advantageous for effective leadership, are predominantly found in those who fail to impress others with their talent for management. This is especially true for women. Read "Why Do So Many Incompetent Men Become Leaders", of the Harvard Business Review, for the compelling scientific evidence on the notion that women are more likely to adopt effective leadership strategies than men.

But a much bigger problem is the lack of career obstacles for incompetent men, along with the fact that we tend to equate leadership with the very psychological features that make the average man a more inept leader than the average woman. The result is a pathological system that rewards men for their incompetence, while punishing women for their competence, to everybody’s detriment.

Again, good leadership has always been the exception, not the norm. Know you’re welcome to share thoughts about finding and selecting effective leaders. Or on how your personal development can be brought on a par with your professional goals.

Warm regards,



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