How many of us have worked for a crappy boss? Too many, according to psychologist Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, who explores how narcissists and megalomaniacs rise to the top and the ways we can escape bad bosses in his new book, Why Do So Many Incompetent Men Become Leaders? (and how to fix it).
Chamorro-Premuzic’s solution is two-pronged: Employees must be willing to leave companies with bad bosses at the helm, and managers must avoid promoting people who exhibit the traits of bad bosses. When HuffPost asked if that meant some larger course correction for us all, Chamorro-Premuzic didn’t flinch: “I’m explicitly, and vehemently, and passionately arguing that we should discriminate against incompetent men who want to become leaders,” he said.
The book’s headline-grabbing title came from an article of the same name that Chamorro-Premuzic wrote for the Harvard Business Review in 2013, as a response to Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In.
Sandberg’s thesis felt “over-simplistic, to kind of blame women for not being promoted more or showing off their ambition and broadcasting their drive,” according to Chamorro-Premuzic. So he set out to change the conversation around leadership.
“Instead of asking women to act more like incompetent men, we [should] actually improve our evaluation criteria and focus on actual talent,” Chamorro-Premuzic said. “I think positive discrimination done as early as possible can help us get there faster.”
When his Harvard article went viral, Chamorro-Premuzic recognized he could mine the topic more deeply. The result is a book that delves into the data and the psychology of why we often glorify style-over-substance leadership.
When Chamorro-Premuzic sat down recently with HuffPost’s Between You and Me, he talked about what he called the “Trump effect” on people’s perception of leadership in America and around the world. He suggested that our cultural understandings (or perhaps misunderstandings) can drive us to expect leaders to look and sound a certain way: narcissistic, over-confident, megalomaniacal and insecure.
“[It’s] how I would label the gap between what we look for in leaders and what we should look for,” Chamorro-Premuzic explained. “I mean, most of the people that are seen intuitively or unconsciously as leadership material, especially in corporate America, they look a lot like Donald Trump. They may be slightly less exaggerated versions of Trump, but they have a lot in common.”