Confusing confidence with competence: A must read from HBR

Screen Shot 2013-08-23 at 10.54.32 AMI’ve already shared this post with my Facebook and Twitter networks, so writing about it here is probably redundant. But this Harvard Business Review essay by Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic deserves everyone’s attention.

Simply put, the author presents an alternative view on why upward mobility for women in the workplace is such a challenge. This one paragraph sums up the argument, but I would encourage you to spend 5 minutes to read the entire post.

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. In other words, when it comes to leadership, the only advantage that men have over women (e.g., from Argentina to Norway and the USA to Japan) is the fact that manifestations of hubris — often masked as charisma or charm — are commonly mistaken for leadership potential, and that these occur much more frequently in men than in women.

Within an hour of reading this post, I had listed 22 former coworkers and clients who can only be labeled “confident but not competent.” Each and every one of them ended in career/business disaster, and each worked in companies that ignored Robert Sutton’s “No Asshole” rule.

Why does it matter? Because most organizations and most teams don’t have competent leadership. And without competent leadership, it’s impossible to build a strong brand that others will trust and follow. Without competent leadership, all of our work in PR, marketing and branding is futile.

It nothing else, this essay may explain why Dilbert remains such a popular comic.

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