This book brings out common biases in our leadership selection process and how it disadvantages women, besides showing how wrong selection impacts performance and team motivation. Here are the central arguments put forth by the author, supported by quotes and research findings from multiple sources:
1. The projected confidence by an individual is often perceived as competence by others. Competence is how good you are at something, while confidence reflects how good you think you are. The more you know about a topic, the more you know what is still to know, and hence makes you more conservative in projecting confidence. On the contrary, those who know less are often better positioned to project greater confidence, than the real talented ones. There are several research findings supporting this lack of correlation between actual competence and projected confidence. Only 10% overlap between competence and confidence. In the situation where leaders are expected to be confident, the self-critical competent and talented may often get ignored and this set may include women in greater proportion.
2. Being Narcissist enhances your chances of being selected as leader. Narcissist have higher sense of superiority, self-centered, entitlement and delusion of talent. Their innate need for power, prestige, and status-seeking, make them better at impression management, ideas-selling and networking with the powerful. While bit of narcissism is good- as it energizes and reassures teams and project confidence, it is difficult to check the level of narcissism in a leader, once I that position. Narcissist leaders are prone to displaying deviant behaviors including bullying, fraud, harassment and unethical actions. In its pursuit for grand vision and bold projections, leaders during initial period may go in for extravagant acquisitions that may bite on later date. Hence actual cost of choosing narcissist as leaders come-out after the initial honeymoon period is over. Worst is that these leaders are less coachable and put-up stiff resistance to any kind of negative feedback.
3. Psychopaths is another category that tends to be more reflected among the leadership set- than are available in the overall population. Psychopaths display lack of moral inhibitions and strong desire to break rules, and lack of empathy, but what gets them chosen as leaders include their celebrated character traits as cool disposition under stress, greater resilience, courage and often better verbal ability! Once made leaders, their performance is often sub-par marked by lack of diligence, disdain for processes and deadlines and passive approach to assuming responsibilities.
4. Charisma is what followers attribute to leader and not something leader can claim on its own. Followers associate greater faith in charismatic leader to take them out of difficult situations. Further followers are more accommodating and less critical of the under-performance by leader they find charismatic than not.
5. Given that the leaders have high impact on organization performance and team morale, and also that it is not easy to replace of coach wrongly selected leaders. If we make the selection criteria more in line with research findings (using standard tools) than driven by appeal and intuition, we are not likely to select narcissist or psychopaths, but proven talent with high EQ and Social capital. This would not only mean that we would select right male leaders, but is also likely to get more women leaders selected as they are naturally endowed with more aligned traits. That also means that the need for direct intervention to add female gender ratio among leadership will not be there.
The book does justice to the question it asks, although the remedy to fix the situation could be lot more descriptive and insightful. Also the challenges associated with redefining the leadership selection process, which can disadvantage the existing power structure needs to be looked into. Case studies and research findings in making the transition from intuition-based to process based leadership selection would be of interest to users.
An easy read and good reminder for us all to be wary of biases as we go to select next leader for our organizations.