viernes, 13 de marzo de 2009

Del «leadership» al «loudership»

Hace unos días leyendo la revista «Time» encontré un artículo interesante de Jeffrey Kluger cuyo título era: Why bosses tend to be blowhards. En su entradilla decía: «A new study shows leadership is often just loudership: big mouths take charge».

Va un poco en la línea de lo que exponía Jack Welch (@jack_welch) en su artículo «Los líderes extrovertidos» y que reproducimos aquí. En ese artículo  Jack Welch decía: «Con el transcurso del tiempo, los introvertidos se estancan en grandes organizaciones. Pueden trabajar con ahínco, ofrecer resultados, pero en raras ocasiones reciben su recompensa. Los extrovertidos con su carisma y su destreza verbal parecen estar en condiciones de comunicar con más vigor y motivar a sus empleados, especialmente en épocas difíciles. También suelen facilitar las relaciones. Y finalmente, los extrovertidos suelen opacar a los introvertidos en grandes compañías, pues sus personalidades les permiten hacer presentaciones a sus superiores. Y esa es siempre una buena manera de acelerar el proceso de cambiar de carrera al sobresalir del montón».

El estudio citado en «Time», publicado en el Journal of Personality and Social Psycology extrae interesantes conclusiones: «Social psychologists know that one way to be viewed as a leader in any group is simply to act like one. Speak up, speak well and offer lots of ideas, and before long, people will begin doing what you say. This works well when leaders know what they're talking about, but what if they don't? If someone acts like a boss but thinks like a boob, is that still enough to stay on top?».

Y continúa: «To determine just how easily an all-hat-no-cattle leader can take control of employees, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, devised a pair of tests. Cameron Anderson, an associate professor of organizational behavior and industrial relations, along with doctoral candidate Gavin Kilduff, recruited a group of 68 graduate students and divided them into four-person teams. To eliminate the wild card of gender, the teams were either all-male or all-female. Each group was given the task of organizing an imaginary nonprofit environmental organization; the group that did best —as determined by the researchers— would win a $400 prize. While the prize was real, the purported goal wasn't. What Anderson and Kilduff really wanted to see was how the alpha group members would emerge.

After the teams performed their work for a fixed amount of time, the members of each group rated one another on both their level of influence on the group and, more important, their level of competence. The work sessions were videotaped, and a group of independent observers performed the same evaluations, as did Anderson and Kilduff. All three sets of judges reached the same conclusions. Consistently, the group members who spoke up the most were rated the highest for such qualities as "general intelligence" and "dependable and self-disciplined." The ones who didn't speak as much tended to score higher for less desirable traits, including "conventional and uncreative". "More-dominant individuals achieved influence in their groups in part because they were seen as more competent by fellow group members," Anderson and Kilduff write.

But so what? Maybe they were more competent. Isn't it possible that people who talk more do so because they simply have more to contribute? To test that, Anderson and Kilduff ran a second study with a new team of volunteers in which the skill being tested was a lot more quantifiable than forming a nonprofit green group. This time it was math.

Once again, the volunteers were divided into fours in competition for a $400 prize, but now their assigned task was to work as teams to solve computational problems from previous versions of the Graduate Management Aptitude Test (GMAT). Before the work began, the participants informed the researchers —but not their team members— of their real-world scores on the math portion of the SAT. When the work was finished, the people who spoke up more were again likelier to be described by peers as leaders and likelier to be rated as math whizzes. What's more, any speaking up at all seemed to do. Participants earned recognition for being the first to call out an answer, but also for being the second or third (even if all they did was agree with what someone else had said. Merely providing some scrap of information relevant to solving the problem counted too, as long as they did so often enough and confidently enough).

When Anderson and Kilduff checked the participants' work, however, a lot of pretenders were exposed. Repeatedly, the ones who emerged as leaders and were rated the highest in competence were not the ones who offered the greatest number of correct answers. Nor were they the ones whose SAT scores suggested they'd even be able to. What they did do was offer the most answers—period.

"Dominant individuals behaved in ways that made them appear competent," the researchers write, "above and beyond their actual competence." Troublingly, group members seemed only too willing to follow these underqualified bosses. An overwhelming 94% of the time, the teams used the first answer anyone shouted out (often giving only perfunctory consideration to others that were offered).

None of this comes as much of a shock (at least if you've been watching the news). You don't have to be a former homeowner burned by the housing fiasco or a blue-state voter screaming "I told you so" to agree that the way we pick our leaders is often based on something other than merit. That's not entirely bad, since no matter how competent bosses are, they still have to have the charisma and confidence to persuade people to follow them. Whether they're leading from the Oval Office or the corner office, it's up to the rest of us to watch them closely and make sure they know what they're doing and where they're going».

Lo hemos repetido muchas veces aquí: «Lo que no se conoce, no existe». Hay mucho talento escondido y agazapado por el miedo al ridículo, al qué dirán, por exceso de timidez, etc. En cierta ocasión le preguntaba a Pilar Gómez–Acebo, socia de Placement Center, la siguiente pregunta: «¿Cómo se explica que personas que a los ojos de muchas personas parecen muy incapaces lleguen tan alto en todos los órdenes: empresa, política, economía...?».

Ésta fue su contestación: «Algo siempre es mejor que nada. Se nos da muy bien criticar y no hacer nada. El que hace algo –aunque sea de poco valor– se ha movido y se ha asomado. Muchas veces el que dice algo aunque sea una tontería se lleva el gato el agua. Hay otras muchas personas que tienen más contenido pero que permanecen en silencio y entonces pasan desapercibidos. Lo que no se conoce es como si no existiese. Por eso la maldad no es lo que triunfa, es el silencio que engorda a la maldad. Hay gente que se la juega aún sabiendo que su propuesta no es de mucho valor pero con el conocimiento de que el resto van a permanecer callados. La gente en silencio sabe que tienen todo que perder pero continúan en silencio. En el mundo de la empresa se dice que “la peor decisión es la no decisión”. Una decisión pobre siempre es mejor que una no decisión. Esto es lo que explica por qué hay mucha gente muy mediocre muy arriba, sobre todo en puestos de política mundial».