Men & Leadership

Human nature is nonexistent and expressed human preferences are malleable to the point of irrelevance; these are the fundamental views of the Leftist. As their only collective point of reference is The Current Year, they remain willfully blind to long-established patterns of behavior, doggedly refusing to consider the possibility that all displayed human behaviors are adaptive ones which persist because they facilitate survival. These behaviors have evolved to enable disparate groups, evolving in disparate environs, with disparate survival/reproductive strategies to survive and to thrive. All other strategies (i.e., ones we tend not to observe on display as frequently) are maladaptive ones, and have been accordingly consigned to the dustbin of evolution.

So when one reads a headline inquiring “Why Do So Many Incompetent Men Become Leaders?,” one immediately understands that what the author actually means to ask is “why do individuals in the corporate setting prefer leaders demonstrating overtly masculine traits rather than leaders demonstrating overtly feminine ones?” The author begins by floating three possible explanations for the “clear under-representation of women in management.”

There are three popular explanations for the clear under-representation of women in management, namely: (1) they are not capable; (2) they are not interested; (3) they are both interested and capable but unable to break the glass-ceiling: an invisible career barrier, based on prejudiced stereotypes, that prevents women from accessing the ranks of power.

The first and second theories accurately capture the current state of affairs in the business world. On average, women are not as capable as men when it comes to navigating the murky waters of the corporate world. On average, women are less interested ascending to the zeniths of management, opting instead to prioritize family over employment and quixotically pursuing that fabled “work-life balance.” Nevertheless, the author finds each of these theories wanting:

In my view, the main reason for the uneven management sex ratio is our inability to discern between confidence and competence. That is, because we (people in general) commonly misinterpret displays of confidence as a sign of competence, we are fooled into believing that men are better leaders than women. 

Several thoughts occurred to me as I read this passage. Firstly: why is it that people tend to associate confidence with competence? Secondly: is it not the case that confidence and competence generally occur together? Thirdly: might there be a subconscious, or perhaps. . .evolutionary rationale for why humans tend to gravitate towards the confident peacockers rather than to the self-deprecating ground doves? The next paragraph provides the reader with some interesting factoids:

This is consistent with the finding that leaderless groups have a natural tendency to elect self-centered, overconfident and narcissistic individuals as leaders, and that these personality characteristics are not equally common in men and women. 

Several things. This “natural tendency” business. Could it be that the individuals in these groups are utilizing proxies and heuristics to determine the types of characters statistically likeliest to secure optimum group outcomes? Could it be that certain traits advertise a certain unfitness to lead, while certain other traits advertise robustness and fitness to lead? Why is it that when humans are left to their own devices in a setting that (very) loosely approximates an ancestral environment (disorder, lack of hierarchy, etc.) that people tend to organize themselves around individuals possessing the mentioned traits? Furthermore, why is it that the distributions of these traits between men and women are so drastically varied? Could it have anything to do with the fact that both sexes evolved the constellation of traits likeliest to help them achieve their respective reproductive goals? Is it possible that classically male traits are better suited the an aggressive & results oriented business environment than are classically female traits?

Indeed, whether in sports, politics or business, the best leaders are usually humble.

Confidence and humility are not antithetical. One can be confident and still conduct oneself with humility. The question of why people consistently perceive there to be a positive correlation between confidence and competence remains.


But back to my initial point regarding adaptive versus maladaptive traits. Though massive & complex multinational corporations are a relatively new innovation, for as long as humans have engaged in commerce and organized trade, the same traits have proven time and time again to garner the best results; business is nothing if not results oriented. Were it the case that retiring, risk avoidant, and collaborative traits obtained the best results, it is obvious that we would see more of these types of behaviors rather than less of them in the business context. Were they maximally effective, these more passive traits would be privileged over more aggressive traits.

Were it the case that “sensitivity, considerateness, and humility” were the traits that helped close the most deals, then we would, without a doubt observe use of these tactics proliferating across the business world. Were it the case that people were most inspired to follow leaders who were more nurturing and emotionally intelligent, we’d see far fewer people hitching their wagons to the Alexander the Greats of the world and more people signing up to follow Jane the Housewife. What Mr. Chamorro-Premuzic fails to realize is that results speak for themselves. The present order has emerged after millennia, if not millions of years of trial and error – not due to baseless gender bias or mere happenstance. Chatty Cathy tends to secure worse business outcomes than Psycho Steve, hence the overwhelming preference for/attraction to the latter and the enhanced willingness to put up with his caprices and mercurial moods. No amount of shilling for EQ and ovaries over IQ and cojones will change the facts on the ground – especially when there’s something major at stake.

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