Recently, I read an edited transcript of a podcast by “Know@Wharton”, in which they interviewed Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, a chief talent scientist at Manpower Group and professor of business psychology at University College London and Columbia University. He has published a book titled “Why Do So Many Incompetent Men Become Leaders? (and how to fix it)”. The link to the interview is below:
I believe sharing this interview with your management team could make for the beginning of some very fruitful conversations regarding this important topic.
Yes, the title of the book certainly pulls you in. Chamorro-Premuzic’s premise is that women are better leaders because they make better strategic decisions, but more men are in positions of leadership because they are more self-confident, a trait which people feel is key to being successful. On the other hand, women with self-confidence many times are perceived as over-confident and tend to be labeled as “pathologically ambitious,” “bulldozers” and generally make others feel uncomfortable or even afraid.
Chamorro-Premuzic’s book explores what he claims is a causal link between male leaders and incompetence. I am certainly not advocating that organizations stop putting males in positions of leadership and neither is he. It should be everyone’s goal to ensure we have the best people leading our organizations, whether they are men or women. Chamorro-Premuzic does touch on some attributes women leaders possess which I feel are critical to the success of an organization.
It’s certainly true that confident and charismatic people have a leg up when it comes to getting ahead. As an HR professional, I have come across my share of leaders, both men and women, who truly are more bravado than substance.
Clearly, women are underrepresented in upper management positions. As is stated in the interview, I agree that traits that make many women good leaders are the traits we should also be looking for in men. You want to call it being more sensitive or being more in touch with your feminine side, fine.
Chamorro-Premuzic summed it up perfectly when he stated “… I think a lot of men are unfairly overlooked or rejected or excluded from leadership identification programs today because they don’t match the traditional masculine archetypes of a leader that we have in mind. In a way, they are more feminine than we expect them to be. But that also means that they are more self-critical, more humble, more coachable and more self-aware. And we need leaders with these characteristics”.
Although the focus of this interview was on senior management and the positive traits of women leaders, I began thinking about managers as a whole and how important their roles are in an organization. Even lower level managers play a key role in developing our leaders of the future. Many managers I have worked with over the years either lack the skills needed to be an effective manager of people or decide not to use those skills because those skills are not what their managers value.
As I mentioned earlier, I realize that we need more women in senior level roles as they are not only excellent strategists, but have the nurturing skills needed to develop others. These “nurturing” skills need to be demonstrated by all managers of people in your organization, both men and women.
Organizations need to do a better job in ensuring that all qualified management candidates have needed “soft skills” and this should be part of the interview process. I would also ensure that your job descriptions list the critical behaviors needed to be considered a qualified candidate.
“Executive Coaching” has become a very popular topic and I am not downplaying the need for it. Just as critical is the need to ensure that all managers of people in your organization are held accountable for the growth of those people they manage. Every organization has an obligation to ensure that they provide the necessary training and coaching to all managers of people, as weak links could be detrimental to the future of your organization.