Why is Incompetent Leadership Rewarded?

Hot air rises—and so, unfortunately, do many of the aspiring leaders who spout it. Why do we continue to mistake confidence for competence, and what should we be doing differently?

When leaders are competent, we all benefit—yet incompetent leadership is everywhere. Why do we equate leadership potential with qualities like overconfidence and narcissism, Low EQ enabling incompetent people to rise to the top? Why do we persist in selecting for leadership traits that hamper organizational progress—and leave the right potential leaders in the wrong roles?

In a new episode of McKinsey Talks Talent, professor and author Dr. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic speaks about why so many incompetent men are in leadership positions and what we should be doing differently to choose stronger and more diverse candidates for leadership roles. What does it take to cultivate true, genuine leadership?

Talking Points:
Why so many bad bosses still rise to the top? How do leaders rise? Will technology help or hurt? Why EQ (Emotional Quotient) matters? Don’t fall into the pool with Narcissus Competence and Capital.

What to do differently

We should try to ignore everything that is style and not substance. We should also de-emphasize things like credentials, expertise, and experience, especially when they apply to something people have done before but is not so relevant for the future. Today, most of us are less likely to lose our jobs to AI than to reimagine our current roles while working out how to use AI to add value in different ways. I would say less focus on hard skills and more focus on the right soft skills.

(Also) There should be less focus on individualistic, selfish, egotistical, and career-enhancing traits and dispositions and more focus on those that make other people better. Fundamentally, leaders need to make other people better, including by helping them collaborate effectively. If you look at that, then you’re going to have a selection of individuals who are predisposed for leadership roles and who look very different from the majority of leaders today, whether they are male or female.

Read the whole transcript of the podcast here.