Which is better: competent jerk? or affable incompetent?
Interesting answer by Michael Barnard at Quora:
My favourite study on this subject was published in the Harvard Business Review a few years ago. They studied a set of European companies and executives and asked a very similar question:
Our research showed (not surprisingly) that, no matter what kind of organization we studied, everybody wanted to work with the lovable star, and nobody wanted to work with the incompetent jerk. Things got a lot more interesting, though, when people faced the choice between competent jerks and lovable fools.
Ask managers about this choice—and we’ve asked many of them, both as part of our research and in executive education programs we teach—and you’ll often hear them say that when it comes to getting a job done, of course competence trumps likability.
But despite what such people might say about their preferences, the reverse turned out to be true in practice in the organizations we analyzed. Personal feelings played a more important role in forming work relationships—not friendships at work but job-oriented relationships—than is commonly acknowledged. They were even more important than evaluations of competence. In fact, feelings worked as a gating factor: We found that if someone is strongly disliked, it’s almost irrelevant whether or not she is competent; people won’t want to work with her anyway. By contrast, if someone is liked, his colleagues will seek out every little bit of competence he has to offer. And this tendency didn’t exist only in extreme cases; it was true across the board. Generally speaking, a little extra likability goes a longer way than a little extra competence in making someone desirable to work with.
But there are justifiable reasons to avoid the jerk. Sometimes it can be difficult to pry the needed information from him simply because he is a jerk. And knowledge often requires explanation to be useful—you might, for instance, want to brainstorm with someone or ask follow-up questions—and this kind of interaction may be difficult with a competent jerk. Furthermore, in order to learn, you often have to reveal your vulnerabilities, which also may be difficult with the competent jerk—especially if you are afraid of how this might affect your reputation in his eyes or in the eyes of others to whom he may reveal your limitations. By contrast, the lovable fool may be more likely to freely share whatever (albeit modest) information or skills he has and, without any intention of gaining an advantage, help others put them to use.
What becomes important in context of this is the social network aspect. Competent jerks frequently have only their own competence to rely upon, but likeable people have much greater social leverage to be able to rely upon the competence of others. To extend this to 7 Habits territory, your sphere of influence can be much greater through someone who is liked than someone who is merely personally competent. Your social graph and hence your ability to perform is improved by connecting through the person with more connections. . .