Why Do So Many Incompetent Men Become Leaders?
Being a leader is not as easy as most people think. There is a lot on the line, and you have to think of every possible negative or positive outcome in order to finish the given assignments.
Having said that, being a good leader is a trait most people become aware of earlier in their lives and then further develop those skills to become better.
However, for every 3 good leaders, there must also come 5 leaders who do not show much-needed leadership skills and thus beg the question “why are they leaders” to come up in spectators’ minds.
Furthermore, the characteristics that make them incompetent is what also makes them being more bosses than leaders, the distinction between those two is that former is all about the job being done without any creative or any other input or help, while the latter is one that would help the team, be supportive and a guide to all the new and experienced colleagues, and teach them as well as learn from them.
In further text, in addition to a kind of a psychological analysis of these leaders, you will also find out more about which traits these “incompetent” leaders all share, a mini analysis of each and every one of those traits, and which ones are better suited for a better leader instead, as well as some factors that might affect these bad traits that are grounded in most of the “incompetent” type of leaders.
NARCISSISM AS CAUSE AND THE EFFECT OF LEADERSHIP
The key weakness of every incompetent leader is their narcissism.
Basically, self-admiration is never something that is an indication of good leadership. It is considered a serious issue that can have a huge negative impact on the workplace, and the whole team, which can lead to counterproductive work.
It is not very difficult to spot a narcissistic person. Among other things, a narcissistic colleague or leader will only express loyalty towards himself or herself and their own agenda, ignoring the needs of their subordinates, putting their own interests before the interests of the collective.
NARCISSISM AS A DRIVING FORCE OF MODERN DAY’S LEADERS
The key weakness of every incompetent leader is their narcissism.
Basically, self-admiration is rarely a trait that indicates good leadership.
It is considered to be a serious issue that can have a huge negative impact on the workplace, and the whole team, which can lead to counterproductive work.
It is not very difficult to spot a narcissistic person.
Among other things, a narcissistic colleague or leader will only express loyalty towards himself or herself and their own agenda, ignoring the needs of his subordinates, putting their personal interests before the interests of the collective.
However, being a narcissist can result in a certain charismatic appeal that these people often have.
That’s why there are tons of tutorials on how to deal with them because people need to be coached to confront them effectively.
The thing is that Narcissism or Narcissistic Personality Disorder is classified as a mental disorder by the American Psychiatric Association.
In order to get better, the person has to be self-aware and aware of their surroundings and various detriments that behavior causes, and be willing to focus on their subordinates more than on their own image and personal needs.
However, narcissists are already self-aware to a great level.
That’s what causes them to perfect themselves in all the manners that they can think of.
Their agenda, after all, is perfection because they’re so obsessed with themselves.
These are highly intelligent individuals who can often fool the shrewdest of the psychiatrists.
You can imagine how such a person can easily climb the corporate ladder and succeed in anything, however, the length of their run will not be satisfactory. As for the person in charge, becoming a leader is not a difficult task for a narcissistic person.
Having that goal already in mind from the beginning, the narcissistic leader knows how to talk their way into anything.
That high levels of confidence that a narcissistic person has is the thing that allows them to talk their way to a higher position in the work chain, coupled with the fact that the person will always have a high and mighty view of themselves, thinking that it deserves to be at the top, no matter whether they are up to the task or not.
LACK OF EMPATHY’S PART IN THE EFFICIENCY
Empathy is a characteristic which embodies the capacity to understand others’ feelings the moment they experience them, or in layman’s terms: to put yourself in another’s position.
One can immediately see why lacking this skill is detrimental for the leader and their team of colleagues.
The lack of empathy in leaders can be a problem as such leaders see their team as mere machines.
Some higher-ups like leaders who do not show emotions, as they are guaranteed to finish their assignments in time, without question, all while enforcing military-like discipline.
That is why in some cases this trait is desirable in higher positions.
These people also desire leadership positions because they link lack of empathy with discipline, and are sure that good results come from a disciplined and hard-working team.
Lacking empathy, they are also not afraid to get what they want however they can, feeling no remorse if they step over other people along the way. That ruthlessness they possess is what drives them to go further and become a leader.
Luckily, a lot of new companies try to reinforce empathy in their leadership, as they bring a boost in productivity, according to Dev Patnaik, writer of the 2009 book “Wired to Care”.
CLOSE MINDEDNESS INSTEAD OF DISCIPLINE
Having a close-minded leader is one of the greatest challenges a workplace can have, and it can become a huge hurdle to jump over.
A close-minded leader is considered to be the leader that is not open to any new ideas or constructive criticism to their own ideas.
He/she does not welcome change and is reluctant to change their own beliefs or to alter their own knowledge and add to it.
Furthermore, it is very difficult to change their opinions or sway them to a side other than theirs.
If one is close-minded, the company is sure to suffer, as the influx of new solutions will be limited.
You can improve the success of the organization by simply embracing new ideas, sharing plans with each and every member of your team.
Close-minded people are usually not able to think in new ways, and become “yes men”.
They strive to be in leadership positions because they are mostly obedient people who will not question anything, while always asking the superiors for advice on the next step.
Being unwilling to learn anything new, they quickly decline to talk about new ideas and shut down any criticism the team might have, further establishing their position as an uncompromising leader.
Another reason they might be ideal for the leadership positions is that they, always siding and concurring with the upper management, boost the management’s egos by never questioning and challenging their opinions.
The positive thing about this is that they are closely linked with the upper management and that if there ever comes a change of management, the close-minded will surely leave the position with the one who put him there.
SELFISHNESS AS A MEANS OF SUCCESS
This characteristic is an umbrella-term for basically any action that the only one benefits from.
This trait is the most destructive one encountered in the workplace as it destroys the atmosphere in the team, destroys the balance of workload, and causes the assignments to completely miss the desired mark.
A selfish leader is more prone to withholding an important piece of information which could prove beneficial to the team, in order to bring it up at the meeting and look better than them.
Furthermore, they do not like teaching others and providing the team with knowledge which could help fulfill the assignment.
These kinds of people want to be leaders simply because they want to advance.
They are psychologically wired to try to achieve the most by doing the least and to bring others down to climb up.
Obtaining leadership is, in their eyes, a necessity. They achieve that by simply taking all the credit for the colleagues’ investment, and building their career even higher up.
They present themselves as good and capable workers, ready to tackle challenges and bring the corporation on the next level, the upper management sees their results and promotes them, unaware that the results were not their own merit.
OVER-AMBITIOUSNESS AS A MANNER OF GETTING TO THE TOP
These two can be closely linked to the previous entry, as they can act as triggers for selfishness, but are complex enough to warrant a separate entry.
A healthy dose of ambitiousness is the thing that drives us to do great things and achieve what we want. Sometimes that can evolve into an over-ambitiousness.
The most dangerous in a leader is the point where he or she realizes that they want more, even though their abilities cannot follow.
In that case, the leader can make impossible requests from his team.
The second is the wish to distinguish themselves as competent.
This wish for self distinction again might come from the surroundings and upbringing, meaning they want to prove to everybody else that they can become something more than they were as young.
This wish is also dangerous for his surroundings as these leaders always feel the need to show themselves in the best light and show that they can go even further.
The problem occurs if the leader is deemed incompetent, and still has the need to distinguish himself as a capable man.
Here the need only comes in way of successfully doing the assignments, instead of stopping for a moment and thinking about the next step that could help the whole team, as well as the leader.
A person who is over-ambitious has a natural tendency to strive for greatness, even though it seems impossible.
An over-ambitious person does not see anything else but the highest position that, in their head, belongs to them.
Having said that, it is pretty easy to say why this type of person is a leader: because all they want is to be leaders.
They think they deserve better, even if they are doing an excellent job in a different position, they will not stay calm until they get promoted to the top spot.
As for a person who wants to distinguish himself or herself, they share the same traits, just different psychological fuel.
These leaders are there because they feel others think less of themselves and have a constant need to prove themselves to other people.
They are in the leadership positions because the higher-ups have rewarded their hard work and dedication, however, these leaders climb the corporate ladder out of selfish reasons.
OVERCONFIDENCE AS A TRAIT OF INCOMPETENT LEADERSHIP
If a leader is overconfident that everything will fall into place, but does not do anything to ensure that it will eventually fall into place, then that leader is not a good one.
Overconfident leaders would more than occasionally take more work than their team can chew, which can either lead to a wake-up call for the leader, to take a minute and analyze himself or herself and their team, and prepare better for a future endeavor by relating back to this experience, or they can learn nothing, exhaust the team with impossible demands, and not move from square one.
The latter is more common when talking about incompetent leaders.
Those leaders that are overconfident always set the bar too high, even for themselves.
That is how they become leaders. Their environment usually doesn’t notice the fine nuances between being confident and overconfident.
Overconfident people are usually promising the higher-ups that every project will be done, and they succeed because they surround themselves with good teams of people.
They know how to achieve success, but they simply do not know how to manage time and resources, which in companies where the number of project goals fulfilled is the only measurement of success, is unimportant.
They often think that past success means that future success is bound to happen and that a leadership position is just their previous position with bit more responsibilities and a better paycheck.
That overconfidence is what makes them think that they would be great leaders which sometimes is enough for them to try and get to that leadership position.
LACK OF SELF-AWARENESS
The self-awareness aspect is one of the most important characteristics that a healthy worker or a leader can have.
Self-awareness is not only important because it gives you insight into who you are. It also enables you to easily develop other traits like honesty, humility, and confidence, but it can also make you aware of your weaknesses and help you better understand how to get rid of them.
Leaders who lack self-awareness are most likely to be unable to further develop their skills, as they are unable to fully and truthfully analyze or criticize themselves.
You have to be aware of your skills if you want to utilize them, you cannot overestimate your skills, because that way your failure is guaranteed.
However, if you are fully aware of your and your team’s possibilities, then you are on the right track.
Leaders who lack self-awareness are less likely to surround themselves with the like-minded, self-aware people, even though the performance of the whole team would be better when each and every member of the whole collective is aware of their strengths and weaknesses and take up parts of the assignments that are most suited for them, while learning more about other parts that are not their forte.
The way and the reasons these people achieve leadership status is similar to the ones we’ve mentioned before.
These types of people are usually rewarded for obedience more than for their skills.
The difference is that they rarely are aware of it, and even if they are, they choose to stay in that position as long as they are able to.
These people do not feel the need to become leaders, neither do they want to make the best of it if they stumble upon the position; they just choose to keep the title and pray that the minimum amount of knowledge they have will help them stay a bit longer in the position.
In layman’s terms, these leaders are just there because they have been given the opportunity, and they often do not care for that position as our other entries.
SOCIETY’S ROLE IN THE INAUGURATION OF INCOMPETENT INDIVIDUALS
It is important to keep in mind that you should always strive to be a leader who will do their best to support the teams that work under the leader.
Being supportive and a guide to all is what makes you not only a competent leader but a successful one who cares about his or her team members.
In the text the most important aspects of an incompetent leader are talked about, although there are most certainly many other characteristics that may or may not deserve a spot in this text, these ones are the most common ones that can be seen in every aspect of life, and that are most commonly seen in people in leadership positions.
If you have read this text and have found yourself in some of the entries, do not fall into despair, there are always ways to improve yourself as long as you are willing to do such a thing.
Having said all this, one must be aware that, in the end, being a leader does not fully depend on having these characteristics, a significant portion of one becoming a leader comes from the surroundings’ acceptance of the said person.
The surroundings meaning the people, who surround the said individual and shape the person in a certain image, can see certain person’s achievements as something amazing or as something that could have been achieved with greater ease.
For an example: achieving something by taking a hard and long way full of learning curves and lessons can be seen as an excellent milestone by some, but in other people’s view, if a shorter and “lesson free” exists, our up and coming leader is crazy not to take it.
To put it short, the system of beliefs of the future leaders is instilled with by the surroundings is what makes him incompetent or competent, hard-working fool or zero experienced embodiment of success.
That is why a healthy proportion of the incompetence of the higher-ups can be put on society.
We will cover how can society’s “teachings” shape a human being into being a bad leader in further writing of the text.
SOCIETY AS A WHOLE
Before talking about concrete things that mold our way of thinking, we need to say a few words about modern society as a whole.
The system of values today is something that does not give its upholders and future workers any motivation and hope for the future.
Every day people are bombarded with news about insignificant people who have somehow “succeeded” in life, in one way or another by simply working too hard.
That’s what’s called the American Dream.
The irony of it is that, the more we venture into the future, the more it’s becoming a pipe dream.
Sometimes those from zero to hero stories include completely immoral behavior which is nevertheless celebrated as successful.
Individuals easily conclude that they will be rewarded by mimicking that behavior, no matter how insufficient or unneeded it may seem.
That is why you have new generations of overconfident leaders, narcissistic leaders, leaders with no self-awareness, because the new generation sees them being rewarded, and expect the same to happen to them.
To comment on the system that allows and tolerates such things to happen, it is not easy to find the root of the problem.
The result is that people are just used to being surrounded by incompetent people in their neighborhood that seeing a plethora of them on high ranking positions is simply a mundane thing.
The word “politician” is these days almost synonymous with the word “criminal” and most people associate these two noble callings.
The problem is that society accepted such phenomena as the “standard”.
A general solution would be to completely overhaul the system via promotion of knowledge, hard work, and above all, a reward for people who exhibit all the “good” traits, and, most importantly, coverage of these people, as they should become the new mold for the next generations.
To further elaborate on some specifics:
ATTITUDES ABOUT HARD WORK
The qualities that had made a worker important are not appreciated fully, nowadays.
Today hard work is not something young people run towards.
In the past, people were taught that with hard work, everything will be obtainable, as success does not come overnight.
Today, young men are more and more being taught to avoid hard work and look for shortcuts.
While it’s efficient to be able to find them when you can, you shouldn’t look for an easy way out by default because in some professions, opting for a shortcut results with shortcomings.
Although the hard way can always be beneficiary no matter what field of life it is applied to, society nowadays is focused on the “from rags to riches” story and its possible shortcuts, not realizing it is the road that makes it possible.
By undermining this fundamental trait, society is accepting the system in which hard work is something that you will just make you tired while promoting the “string pulling” technique.
Society showed that it would respect a person who is in a leadership position by “string pulling” more than a person that earned that position with hard work and self-improvement.
As mentioned before, society pushes its own skewed view of hard work and reward system, that it simply and bluntly tells you to stop trying to work hard, there will always be someone better who will nab the thing you want in front of you.
Many people nowadays believe that the only way to achieve something and make something out of yourself is to put the minimum effort into improving yourself in every way, as it is just a waste of time.
On the other hand, praising hard work can be a capitalistic myth devised to manipulate people into being exploited and motivating them to work harder and earn for their bosses in order to realize the pipe dream.
MATERIALISM AND NEPOTISM
The modern society is focused on materialism more than ever.
A materialistic society can only produce more people focused on materialism. It was mentioned previously in the text that focusing more on money than on other aspects of your work surroundings is not as beneficial as the other way around.
The society is constantly being bombarded with propaganda about famous people having expensive trips so much that our brains are wired to think that the only stuff that matters is the wealth we possess.
It’s easier to get there in a group and that is where the nepotism starts.
Materialistic society creates materialistic people, who will eventually value experience less.
These people will become workers, these workers will get promoted to leaders, and these leaders will value materialism more than experience and knowledge. It is a domino effect that starts with the worldview.
The society is always teaching you to find the easy way, and there is no easiest way than getting a job at a place where your close kin is high position at. Even though that sounds interesting, there is no real learning experience from nepotism.
The best way one learns and earns experience is from failure. You have to have multiple successes, and do not let failures get under your skin. Learn from them, and continue on.
In the end, there is a possibility the future leader will be sheltered at the current position.
Those leaders will not learn to put themselves back on their feet after a failure or feel a sense of accomplishment after a successful task, as they will be brought mostly as yes-men.
When such a person becomes a leader along the track, they will not be ready for the burdens that their position brings
In conclusion, materialism and nepotism are two sides of a bad coin.
One stops you from bettering yourself and the other stops you from learning from your mistakes.
Both stop you from being a competent leader.
The system today focuses more on the mechanical repetition and reproduction of acquired data.
You can’t really call that education no more than you can call that learning.
Instead of focusing on other aspects of learning, such as reinforcing critical thinking in students, and focusing more on the practical parts of the lessons, the educational system forces you to learn certain parts of subjects for which you do not know the practical applicability in later life.
For those subjects, the students choose to cheat, thus reinforcing that feeling that cheating is the easiest way out when backed up against a wall while putting the action of “thinking of a solution or an easier way to learn” at the end of the wagon.
That point can be achieved by training yourself to think outside the box, to think more metaphysically and philosophically, in short, to stretch out and train your brain.
This way of learning further shows that the more one listens and the less one talks, the better the reward he’ll get.
By the time they get to the leadership position, they will have lost the ability to think critically and make proper decisions.
They will try to apply outdated and pre-learned solutions that are incompatible with the newly risen problems in the company.
Of course, not all systems are proved to be insufficient. One of the most successful systems of education is considered to be Finland’s whose system is focused on cooperation among students, the mental health of students, a relaxed and motivating work atmosphere, and bonding between teachers and students. The system of Finland provides excellent results and as of 2014. They have been in the top of PISA.
In the end, you should not always wholly blame society. The society, as it is in other countries as well, is always volatile in nature, there are always good and bad apples on the tree.
You just need to be aware that it has a strong hold on a young person’s mind and its upbringing.
Its effects on a person can be counter-effected by simply knowing that it shapes you and by a simple self-evaluation where you can put your strengths and weaknesses on a piece of paper, and simply reinforce the strengths by eliminating or mitigating the weakness. In the end that is how one becomes a good leader: by being aware of his weaknesses and doing his best to get rid of them.
To do a little reality-check of your or your bosses leadership capabilities, just ask/answer to these questions.
Do you prefer adapting to others or make others adapt to your style of work?
You should always try to at least hear other people’s way of thinking and problem approaching skills; you can always learn something new by just looking at a problem from a new perspective.
Do you blame other people or yourself for your failures?
This is a big question.
Of course, there are times when other colleagues make mistakes, but if you always blame others, that is not a sign of good leadership.
You should not be afraid of failures; they are the building blocks of your work personality and work ethics and must be gone through sooner rather than later.
Do you like giving orders and letting people work or receiving orders and working with others?
The ultimate leadership question, the answer which tells whether you are a boss or a leader. A good leader is someone who works through problems together with their team, shares the good sides and the bad sides, and someone on whom the teammates will always rely.
The boss is there to give the assignment and expect the assignment to be done as soon as possible, not wanting to hear excuses or problems that might occur during the work.
Now you know where you stand. Are you a leader or a boss?
Whichever half of the questions you have found yourself in, always be aware that not every boss is a born leader, but to do the job in the most successful way and avoid the dreaded “incompetent” adjective, you must try your best and be a leader to your colleagues and workers.
It is not an easy job to be a leader. If it were that easy, each and every one of us would be a beacon of amazing leadership.
However, as with every other skill, leadership is exactly that, and it can be learned, at least to a certain degree. Each one of us should consider his/her personal responsibility to continue bettering ourselves and realizing that we can learn something new every day.
Furthermore, always be aware of the distinction between a boss and a leader: A good leader is always there for the team, will put his experience, skills, knowledge on disposal to the team. Leaders are the first in lines to fail or succeed and they do both as a team.
A boss, on the other hand, is someone who is there but does not express any helping advice, or interest to help their team achieve success.
Bosses are there only to take laurels, but they rarely take the fall. In other words, bosses are incompetent leaders.
It’s a vicious circle where incompetent leaders lead society to its decadence and a decadent society produces incompetent leaders, so each one of us should watch out for the given features of the incompetent leaders.
We should all work together to break the cycle.
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