The boat race: Competent Jerks and loveable fools

Seven years ago, Cambridge introduced a teamwork theory into their boat-race planning. Leaders we deserve assessed whether the ideas held water

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The post in Leaders we deserve described how the theory was supposed to work.

The news was picked up by the media noting that Cambridge Coach Duncan Holland has been assisted by Mark de Rond from Cambridge’s Judge Business School.

Mark is an American strategy theorist who is tipping his toe into more behavioral waters here (I can’t get away from aquatic imagery at the moment).

Competent Jerks and loveable fools

The basic idea, by Casciano and Lobo, originated in the prestigious Harvard Business Review last June. Their work examines the relationships between managers with differing levels of competence and of likeability. Details of the work can be found in a summary by Asia one Business AsiaOne Business:

The authors studied four organisations – one which is profit-motivated, one non-profit, another large and the fourth, small. No matter which organisation they studied, they found that everybody wanted to work with a lovable star and nobody wanted to work with an incompetent jerk. They say things got more interesting when people faced the choice between competent jerks and lovable fools … surprise, surprise, the two researchers found out that the reverse was true in the four companies they analysed.

“Personal feelings played a more important role in forming work relationships – not friendships at work, but job-oriented friendships – than is commonly acknowledged, even more important than evaluations of competence.”
The competent jerks represent an opportunity for the organisation because so much of their expertise is discounted.

Since the original post, Oxford has won four out of six contests. Today’s race is considered too close to call.

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4 Responses to The boat race: Competent Jerks and loveable fools

  1. Liam says:

    This is an interesting analysis framework, but I think there may be more categories of manager. Malevolent manipulators comes to mind first.

    I would be interested in reading the cited summary – the link does not work.
    .

  2. Dear Liam

    You are quite right about the missing link. The essential info isin my earlier post and the HBR article.

    PS think IVe met a few people who might fit your category. Although the descriptors should identify styles not types.

    Best wishes

  3. Thanks for correcting spelling. Think my reporting the earlier blog may have been confusing. It was written seven years ago as mentioned in the re-write.

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