As Long as We Associate Leadership with Masculinity, Women Will Be Overlooked

Six years ago, I wrote an article arguing that women weren’t unrepresented in the leadership ranks due to their unwillingness to “lean in” or inability to lead, but because of our failure to effectively weed out incompetent men. In that article, which has become one of HBR’s most-read pieces, I argued that instead of lowering our standards for women, we had to raise the bar for men. That article touched a nerve, and it continues to do so.

Since then, a range of paradigmatic leadership events – from the rise of Trump and the global resurgence of populism to the #metoo age, along with the prevalence of brash narcissistic male leaders and the continuous pessimism in the quality of our corporate and political leaders – has ensured that my argument about incompetent men remained sadly relevant.

Unfortunately, the only way to explain the widespread appeal of this message is that political and business leaders are largely failing their followers and subordinates and the majority of us continue to experience leadership in a rather negative way.



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