incompetent leadership

Cepheus

Ad Honorem
Dec 2011
2,225
#11
whether in the politics, business or the running of non profit organizations, is there some psychological or sociological reasons that make so many incompetent people become leaders?
I think the dynamics are different for each category.

Politics is about influence peddling. In politics, how each person defines "incompetent" could depend on varying ideologies. Incompetence does not mean that a politician will necessarily be unsuccessful. Also, how "success" is defined is subject to ideological and economic factors.

Businesses' I think are highly susceptible to the Peter Principle, but, there are other factors involved such as nepotism.

Additionally, there are pre-suppositions in the phrase "so many" that should be clarified but I will not address that issue for now.
 

Edratman

Forum Staff
Feb 2009
6,667
Eastern PA
#12
whether in the politics, business or the running of non profit organizations, is there some psychological or sociological reasons that make so many incompetent people become leaders?
I'm just going to ignore the broad brush statement of "so many........

To paraphrase pugsville, politics is a completely independent and separate topic because the process and requirements of getting elected and reelected may or may not have any relationship to a person's performance in office. Nuff' said.

Several have cited the Peter Principle and nepotism , but unjustified and/or unqualified career advancement is a complex topic that encompasses scores of skills and other factors. Some of these are charm, charisma, physical appearance, ability to speak well, willingness to lie, willingness to steal credit from others, having a subordinate carry the burden, willingness to back-stab your peers, ability to play office politics, luck, right place/right time fortune....................

There is not a simple and easy answer across the spectrum. An individual can be parsed, but you cannot address an entire field with a few words.
 
Likes: Cepheus
Feb 2018
214
US
#14
As was said, this is a complex question. I'd add that a big culprit in modern organizations of all types is the bureaucratic promotion system, despite it supposedly being based on 'merit'. It doesn't necessarily lead to incompetence, depending on the organization, but it does pre-select for more stable, orthodox, and mediocre leaders instead of convention-bucking outliers who may be riskier choices but have a much higher potential.

In warfare there is a selection problem of the generals who get promoted in peacetime being ill-suited for actual war time. In business, as an extension of the Peter principle, specialists in say sales or tech who get promoted to CEO often are completely clueless on their new responsibility of capital allocation.

You might be interested in the book 'The Psychology of Military Incompetence.' It has its limitations, but its a rare look on this, particularly the first section. In business, there is the book 'The Outsiders' which looks at gifted leaders who ended up in charge due to more unique circumstances rather than a typical selection process.