Confidence Vs. Competence - Are We Selecting the Best Leaders?

By David Witmer posted 03-14-2017 16:21


Among the various news feeds and social media posts I saw during last week’s #IWD2017 there were a couple that offered some unique points that I thought I would highlight in this month’s blog. Both authors offered perspectives on how we approach the hiring the right leaders and inherent biases that result in less than optimal outcomes.

The first one that caught my eye was a tweet that revisited a 2013 article in Harvard Business Review titled, Why Do So Many Incompetent Men Become Leaders? This piece by Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic discusses the difficulty we have distinguishing between confidence and competence and how this too often results in the selection of arrogant and self-centered leaders. He also notes that these traits are more common in men than in women and are inversely related to leadership talent. In the author’s words,

“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.”

He goes on to point out that some of the of the advice for women has focused on getting them to adopt some of the “dysfunctional” leadership characteristics.

He makes some very good points. I won’t even mention the most obvious examples that are nearly ubiquitous in today’s news cycles. Many times, on search committees and during interviews throughout my career I have witnessed this bias in effect and seen it lead to selections of individuals who were good self-promoters but not good leaders. I have had the opportunity to interact with many truly great leaders but also experienced too many who, though recognized as leaders, exhibited these dysfunctional traits.

The second piece that caught my eye was one in Inc. that focused on new approaches to conducting interviews to make better hiring decisions. The Job Interview Will Soon Be Dead. Here's What the Top Companies Are Replacing It With by Marcel Schwantes discusses why traditional job interviews do not add much value to the decision process. He quotes Ron Friedman (author of The Best Places to Work), noting that 81% of candidates lie during interviews. He goes on to point out that, as noted earlier, our own biases shape the questions we ask and the assessments we make of candidates. Friedman’s book points out that candidates who are taller, good looking, or have deeper voices are all judged more positively in traditional job interviews.

Some companies are adopting “job auditions.” Case studies from several companies using this technique are showcased in this article. I was especially impressed by one approach at The CEO there conducts final interviews with top candidates after they pass “tryouts.” These interviews are conducted via Skype chat or text messages. He does not even know the either the gender or ethnicity of the candidates.

Both articles reinforced for me the need for more focus on selecting candidates based on truly relevant leadership skills and on new approaches to controlling and eliminating biases towards confidence as a surrogate for competence from the selection process. Focusing on the right skills will, in all likelihood, result in more women being placed in leadership positions, but more importantly result in better leaders for our organizations. The concept of job auditions is one approach, but what else are you doing to explicitly test for leadership skills and to address our unfortunate tendency to confuse confidence with competence?

#interviews #PharmacyPracticeManagers #competency #Leadership