Home » Why Do So Many Incompetent Men Become Leaders: Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic (Transcript)

Why Do So Many Incompetent Men Become Leaders: Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic (Transcript)

“Don’t worry about what people think of you. If you think you’re great, you are!”

Unfortunately, this creates a surplus of leaders who are unaware of their limitations and unjustifiably pleased with themselves. They see leadership as an entitlement and lack empathy and self-control, so they end up acting without integrity and indulging in reckless risks.

In contrast, the best leaders manage to keep their narcissism in check. They care a lot about other people, including what they think of them, and spend a great deal of time worrying about their reputation, which is why there are very few scandals about them.


The first solution is to follow the signs and look for the qualities that make people better leaders, especially when they don’t usually make people leaders.

There is a pathological mismatch between the attributes that seduce us in a leader and those that are needed to be an effective leader. If we want to improve the performance of our leaders, we should start by focusing on the right traits.

Instead of falling for people who are confident, narcissistic and charismatic, we should promote people into leadership because of their competence, humility and integrity.

Incidentally, this — this would also lead to a higher proportion of female than male leaders as large-scale scientific studies show that women score higher than men on measures of competence, humility and integrity.

But the point is that we would significantly improve the quality of our leaders.

The second solution is to distrust our instincts. Most of us love our intuition, but most people are just not as intuitive as they think.

In that sense, intuition is a bit like sense of humor. Ninety percent of people think they have a fantastic sense of humor. How many people are actually funny? 10% percent?

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One implication is to focus less on the impressions people make during job or media interviews, which are just an invitation to project our own biases and prejudices.

Note that even when we have good intentions, it is not easy to overcome this. For example, unconscious bias training will rarely help you ignore that the person in front of you is white, female or attractive.

In fact, the more you try to suppress certain thoughts from your mind, the more prominent and present they become.

So, the last thing we should be doing, if we want to improve the quality of our leaders and help more women get to leadership positions, is to not lower our standards when we select women, but to elevate them when we select male leaders.

This means not asking women to behave more like incompetent men. For example… for example, asking them to lean in even when they don’t have the talents to back it up, or spend more time on self-promotion or advancing their own personal interests.

It also means not ruling out men because they lack the traditional masculine features that match our flawed leadership archetypes.

To the extent that we can do this, we will end up with better leaders, but progress starts with each and every one of us. If we want to improve the competence level of our leaders, we should first improve our own competence for judging and selecting leaders, especially when they’re men.

Thank you.


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Resources for Further Reading: 

Great Leaders Do What Drug Addicts Do: Michael Brody-Waite (Transcript)

How Legendary Leaders Speak: Robin Sharma (Transcript)

Lars Sudmann: Great Leadership Starts With Self-Leadership at TEDxUCLouvain (Transcript)

Bob Davids: The Rarest Commodity is Leadership Without Ego at TEDxESCP (Transcript)

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