Good leadership has always been the exception, not the norm.
That’s why recently, especially considering the alarming unrest the world is facing right now I’ve been asking myself this question: If women are better as leaders, why don’t we have more of them? And why do so many incompetent men become leaders?
Women leaders outperform, especially during a crisis.
It’s enough to look at how countries have managed the pandemic crisis. Those led by women, like New Zealand or Germany have done much better than those run by men, such as the US or Brazil.
In business, on average, companies with more women leaders do better, and we know from decades of research that on most of the key traits that make leaders more effective, women tend to outperform men. Women are more likely to lead democratically, show transformational leadership, be a role model, listen to others, develop their subordinates’ potential, and score higher on measures of leadership effectiveness.
Research by Alice Eagly and colleagues also showed that female managers are more likely to elicit respect and pride from their followers, communicate their vision effectively, empower and mentor subordinates, and approach problem-solving in a more flexible and creative way, as well as fairly reward direct reports.
Those are amazing leadership achievements. Wouldn’t you say?
But back to my question: Why do so many incompetent men become leaders, and so many women with great leadership potential never get selected into these positions?
One scientist can answer this question better than most: Dr. Thomas Chamorro-Premuzic – he literally wrote a book about it.
He says that the absence of women in leadership roles has less to do with women themselves and more to do with what we as society interpret, and prefer as 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.
How to fix it?
There is no simple recipe, of course, and if you want to know the full argument, please read the book “Why Do So Many Incompetent men Become Leaders (And how to fix it)”.
But in a nutshell, Dr. Chamorro-Premuzic suggests that when we promote and hire managers we should think more critically about what seems like a leadership trait versus what is an actual leadership trait.
We should recognize that arrogance and overconfidence – the characteristics that help incompetent men get to the top are also exactly the same traits that make them fail as leaders.
He suggests that instead of “blaming women for not “leaning in”, we should stop promoting people (usually men) who lean in when they don’t have the talents to back it up.
We would not just improve leadership quality, but also gender equality. And in the process, we would make it a lot harder for narcissistic and psychopathic men to thrive.
As Bloomberg’s Sarah Green Carmichael noted,
“Equality isn’t exceptional women getting ahead, it is incompetent men falling behind.”
With leadership greetings,
More resources for you:
TEDx talk by Dr. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic where he explains our tendency to rate leaders using exactly the wrong criteria.
According to a report by McKinsey in 2020, if women were given equal rights on the job market, the global GDP would go up by $12 trillion by 2025.
12 T R I L I O N dollars. That’s right.
P.S. We still have a lot of work to do:
- Only 4.9% of Fortune 500 CEOs and 2% of S&P 500 CEOs are women. And those numbers are declining globally.
- Only 22 countries have women as the Head of State or Government. (UN Women)
- 52% of women in the world deal with non-inclusive behavior at work, based on gender discrimination. (Deloitte)
- Only 4% of women say their organizations have made progress in building inclusive cultures that support women. (Deloitte)