Are You Promoting the Wrong People?

You’ve probably heard of the “Peter Principle”: the concept developed by Laurence J. Peter, which observes that people in a hierarchy tend to rise to their “level of incompetence”. 

The classic application is promoting our top salesman to a Sales Director job as a reward for being such a great sales hunter. In truth the person’s failure is because the new position requires different skills (administration, management, recordkeeping) than those being displayed (understanding customers and meeting their needs).

Bernard Coleman recently observed other scenarios in which we promote people to new positions for the wrong reasons – with dangerous consequences. In The 4 Worst Leadership Mistakes, he discusses four types of  ‘perceived leadership’: when we elevate someone to leadership levels because they came up with something cool. We “canonize inventiveness and conflate it with leadership.” 

The four mistakes he notes are:

1. The Untrustworthy Leader – Without trust, everything erodes – consumer confidence, employee morale, innovation is stifled — all because the leader can’t be trusted. 

2. The 60,000 Foot Leader – Don’t look at people as numbers, human capital.  Employees aren’t chattel or beans to be counted, they are people and they are complex. Leaders need to see their people as they see their customers — with value.
3. The Soloist – They take all credit but none of the responsibility.  Real leadership is 360 ownership of wins and losses.  

4. The Blocker- This person inhibits progress. With a bias for why, instead of why not, they stymie people.  


Real leaders lead, create opportunity, share the credit and make sure the team becomes better in the process.  What do you think? Share your thoughts

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