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Why Are So Many Male Politicians Incompetent And Boorish?

August 24, 2013

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With the implosion of San Diego Mayor Bob Filner’s long political career following his resignation Friday comes a question that needs answering.  Why are so many men failing the leadership test?  While I am mindful there are complicated answers to the question there does seem to be lots of sense to the following.

The truth of the matter is that pretty much anywhere in the world men tend to think that they that are much smarter than women. Yet arrogance and overconfidence are inversely related to leadership talent — the ability to build and maintain high-performing teams, and to inspire followers to set aside their selfish agendas in order to work for the common interest of the group. Indeed, whether in sports, politics or business, the best leaders are usually humble — and  whether through nature or nurture, humility is a much more common feature in women than men. For example, women outperform men on emotional intelligence, which is a strong driver of modest behaviors. Furthermore, a quantitative review of gender differences in personality involving more than 23,000 participants in 26 cultures indicated that women are more sensitive, considerate, and humble than men, which is arguably one of the least counter-intuitive findings in the social sciences. An even clearer picture emerges when one examines the dark side of personality: for instance, our normative data, which includes thousands of managers from across all industry sectors and 40 countries, shows that men are consistently more arrogant, manipulative and risk-prone than women.   

The paradoxical implication is that the same psychological characteristics that enable male managers to rise to the top of the corporate or political ladder are actually responsible for their downfall. In other words, what it takes to get the job is not just different from, but also the reverse of, what it takes to do the job well. As a result, too many incompetent people are promoted to management jobs, and promoted over more competent people.

One Comment
  1. August 25, 2013 9:31 AM

    You ask, “Why Are So Many Male Politicians Incompetent And Boorish?”

    The answer is because it takes a certain amount of ego to run for office, and I’d imagine that ego is only fed and amplified by a few electoral wins. These guys think they’re invincible, and stories like this are the end result.

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