Many people ask why so many incompetent leaders exist in companies. Harvard Business Review noted a study, and the results are eye opening.
Why are so few women in management positions? The popular explanations range from women just aren’t capable of being leaders to women just don’t want to be leaders. According to the author, however, the absence of women in leadership roles has less to do with women themselves and more to do with how we interpret leadership traits. Confidence – a trait more associated with men – is often misinterpreted as competence. As a result, charismatic, but incompetent men have fewer barriers to reach the top than women. Individuals in positions to promote and hire managers should think more critically about what seems like a leadership trait versus what is an actual leadership trait. They will find that arrogance and overconfidence – the characteristics that get men into management positions – are also the characteristics that cause poor performance.
We see this same effect. The best leaders have deep humility and that is so far from confidence. We find most confidence we see from candidates is bravado that we uncover in our deep background checks. Confident talk does not make a great leader. The best leaders usually ask more questions than make bold claims. The best leaders get data from all over the organization from the lowest rungs to the highest. Having all the data, they make much better decisions than the “confident” leaders. Great leaders are driven and have energy, but that is not the same as bravado in any way.
Incompetent Leaders Multiply While Great Leaders Get Overlooked
President Eisenhower who also led the D-Day invasion had no bravado. He was a quiet introvert with great strategic insight and vast ability to form contingency plans. He was always more prone to listen than to speak. If the US had picked the confident one, Patton, his bravado would have destroyed the allied cooperation and gotten us destroyed trying to take some port.
Very few companies I know can manage the bull that was Patton. Send him to war to point at the enemy was his only real life. Eisenhower had much more to offer. This and other highly competent leaders are the ones we need to hire into our companies. Can you imagine that all great leaders are teachable? Yes, how could Eisenhower have been so great if he had not heard from all the stakeholders? He learned from everyone.
Most companies would overlook Eisenhower because of such unwarranted biases. We do not. We notice these fabulous leaders and work hard to help you see them whether male or female. You deserve the best for your company.