Dr. Laurence Peter understood the promise and peril of bureaucracy better than most. Fifty years ago, he wrote, “managers rise to the level of their incompetence.” The Peter Principle states that if you do a good job, you get promoted, until you reach a job where you’re incompetent, and there you stay… meaning that sooner or later, the entire organization is filled with incompetent people stuck in their slot.
Bureaucracy promises us a safe spot, and it also offers the upside that if you do a good job, you’ll get chosen, picked, promoted and will move up. So, keep your head down, do what you’re told and you win.
We don’t live in that world any more.
And the upside is definitely more positive and a lot more scary:
You (and you alone) get to decide if you want to move “up”. If you want to be promoted, have more influence, more leverage and more responsibility.
Fearful that we’ll expose our incompetence, we hide. Remembering the lessons of childhood, we wait to get picked.
But the Peter Possibility points out that we’re far more competent than we imagine.
That once we pick ourselves, we have precisely what we need to do generous work.