66450493762f2220671669 - Competence versus confidence

Competence versus confidence

Challenges and opportunities in leadership roles – a critical analysis

The discussion about women in leadership roles is currently characterised by ideological positions that shift the focus from competence, integrity and equality to gender quotas and woke feminism. This blog post looks at the challenges and opportunities of leadership roles from a critical perspective, based on the positions of Esther Bockwyt in her book “Woke: Psychologie eines Kulturkampfs”.

Historical perspective: men in leadership roles

In pre-modern societies, leadership, political and economic power were directly linked to military leadership. Access to education was also largely reserved for men.

Military virtues: Qualities such as courage, determination and physical strength were highly valued. These virtues were seen as necessary for effective leadership.

Hierarchical structures: Military organisations are highly hierarchical. These power structures were transferred to civilian and political leadership, and still apply in companies. Companies are not democracies.

Male dominance: As military leadership was traditionally exercised by men, this reinforced the association of leadership with masculinity and largely excluded women from leadership roles.

This historical imprint has long-term effects on the understanding of leadership and elite in modern societies and contributes to today’s gender dynamics in leadership positions.

In addition to the halo effect, which unconsciously attributes competence to aggressive, self-confident behaviour and body size, networks and relationships also reinforce traditional gender stereotypes. Both genders tend to favour like-minded colleagues in management positions. As a result, an incompetent, albeit well-networked, management culture can easily develop.

Current challenges: Quotas and their impact

With the increasing focus on diversity and inclusion, more women have been promoted to leadership positions – wholly positive, but not without risks:

Quota-based promotions: The introduction of quotas invites, for a higher business ethics score, positions to be filled based on gender rather than actual competence.

Reverse discrimination: Reverse discrimination does not create equality.

Lack of sustainability: Nor are quotas alone capable of achieving this. Rigid quotas do not take into account the necessity of competence and performance for organisational success.

Focus on competence and integrity

To ensure that the best candidates get into leadership roles, the focus must be on promoting competence and integrity rather than quotas.

Competency-based selection: Promotions should be based on clear performance indicators and demonstrated competencies, regardless of gender.

Ongoing training: Managers should receive continuous training to improve their skills and stay up to date.

Mentoring programmes: Both men and women should have access to mentoring and support to succeed in their roles.

Regular performance reviews: Managers should be regularly evaluated and given feedback on their performance to ensure continuous improvement.

Psychological safety and value-based leadership

A key aspect of successful leadership is creating an environment of psychological safety. Managers must live values that create a working environment in which employees feel safe to express their opinions and take risks. This promotes innovation, reduces fear and strengthens team cohesion.

Empathy and value-orientated leadership: Empathy is a key skill for successful managers. It promotes strong and trusting relationships within the team and helps to recognise conflicts at an early stage and resolve them constructively. Value-orientated leadership means aligning decisions and actions with clear ethical principles. Managers who practise value-based leadership can demonstrate integrity, ensure long-term success and serve as a role model for their team.


If organisations want to be successful, ideological approaches such as quota systems must not obscure the focus on competence, integrity and continuous development. Organisations need to ensure that their selection processes are fair and competency-based and that managers receive the support and training they need to be successful.

For further information, we recommend reading Esther Bockwyt’s book “Woke: Psychologie eines Kulturkampfs”.

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