Why Incompetent Leaders Rise to the Top, and How to Fix it with Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic

We were so glad to be joined by Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic to discuss his controversially titled book Why Do So Many Incompetent Men Become Leaders interestingly there were no men in the audience.Tomas is an organisational psychologist and professor of business psychology at UCL and Columbia University as well as Chief Talent Scientist at ManpowerGroup.

Tomas outlined the misconception about the qualities that constitute leadership potentialand redefined what kind of people make the best leaders. Here were our key takeaways from Tomas’ talk:
  1. The book was based on an article that Tomas wrote in 2013 in response to Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In which Tomas views as pseudo-meritocratic messaging much like the American Dream.
  2. In the western world, leadership comes with a certain level of narcissism as it doesn’t consider the collective and therefore doesn’t benefit society as a whole.
  3. The current system incorrectly rewards arrogance, chauvinism and confidence rather than rewarding merit. There’s a need for a system that reduces the number of incompetent people in power.
  4. Not only do we need to promote more competent leaders, we need to assess how leaders perform once they get there to truly judge if they’re good leaders.
  5. Female leaders who rise to the top are a product of the same flawed system/the same flawed leadership archetype
  6. The argument is not to promote more women but to promote a “more feminine leadership style” and people with more typically feminine attributes like self-awareness, humility and a degree of altruism – all beneficial leadership qualities.
  7. We need to learn to assess talent not confidence. The problem is that confidence is easy to see and talent more difficult to judge meaning too often confidence is mistaken for competence.
  8. But, how can we assess talent? Talent isn’t just about assessing hard skills, there are KPIs to judge soft skills too. Hiring companies should be looking at how employees have previously performed by examining upward feedback and 360s rather than just sales statistics.
  9. A good leader needs outward confidence, a degree of inner self-doubt/imposter syndrome, humility, honesty and competency. 
  10. There is hope! With the rise of A.I. and automation it’s EQ that will be increasingly in demand and emotional intelligence that will set talent apart.


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