Researchers are studying “The Peter Principle” and finding that it may well be true:

There are good reasons to expect that bosses can’t help but be incompetent – adrift on a sea of troubles they neither understand nor can control. Better to take pity on the poor souls: there with the grace of the promotion committee go all of us.

The idea that high-level incompetence is inevitable was formulated in the 1969 best-selling book The Peter Principle: Why things always go wrong. Its authors, psychologist Laurence Peter and playwright Raymond Hull, started from the observation that while jobs generally get more difficult the higher up any ladder you climb, most people only come equipped with a more or less fixed level of talent that corresponds to their intelligence, knowledge and energy. At some point, then, they will be promoted into a job they can’t quite handle. They will, as Peter and Hull put it, “reach the level of their own incompetence”. And there they will stay, fouling up operations until they either retire or some egregiously inept act gets them fired. […]

The “Peter principle” undoubtedly appeals to the cynic in all of us. It is also quite possibly true, if subsequent academic studies are to be believed. The longer a person stays at a particular level in an organisation, the more most measures of their performance fall – including subjective evaluations and the frequency and size of pay rises and bonuses. It is a finding entirely consistent with the idea that people eventually become bogged down by their own incompetence.

New Scientist: Why your boss is incompetent

(via Atom Jack)