Congratulations! You’ve received that long awaited promotion you so richly deserve. It’s time for a well- earned celebration and a pat on the back…after all, you need to enjoy these victories!


With promotion however comes increased workload – and the need to continue developing your skills further if you don’t want to fall foul of the Peter Principle.

Avoiding Your Level of Incompetence

The Peter Principle was discovered, and named after, management theorist Laurence Peters. After studying a number of promoted workers over a period of time he came to the conclusion that most managers “rise to their level of incompetence”. In most cases he found that managers were promoted because of their ability to do their existing job well, rather than assessing their skills based on their ability to perform tasks in the new position for which they were being considered. This resulted in employees being promoted until they reached a stage where they were no longer performing their jobs to a high level, at which their career would stagnate and further promotions would not be forthcoming.

For many of those promoted it’s not their technical skills that are in question – but their leadership abilities. The fundamental difference between a line position and a management position is, after all, the ability to work with, and manage staff working under you – and leadership is at the heart of that change.

Is Your Employer a Help or a Hindrance?

Recognizing that the work starts when you get your promotion can be half the battle. Your employer can do a lot to help you develop your leadership skills, but they can also inadvertently be a hindrance for a variety of reasons:

  1. They may give you a “false” promotion that doesn’t change the tasks you are required to perform. Sometimes in the interests of efficiency a job may be redefined or rationalized into a new position that incorporates many of the tasks of the old. It may be represented as a promotion to provide the employee concerned with a “feel-good” factor, but in fact the position is simply the old job under a new name. This can ultimately lead to frustration and dissatisfaction if new challenges or learning opportunities don’t accompany the role.
  2. The company fails to set standards. Being promoted will generally come with new expectations – but if the company doesn’t define these expectations properly, or fails to set the standards of performance required, this can lead to underachievement by the employee.
  3. Not training the whole team. As a leader you will be given opportunities to develop and grow, but if your team isn’t also given the chance to join you on this journey the gap between your beliefs and expectations and theirs will become a gulf that will become harder to reach across. This is where formal training can really help.
  4. Other managers may restrict you. The level to which you can grow and develop will be hampered to the extent that your immediate manager or supervisor will give you that opportunity. If they are a micro-manager who is averse to delegating and anxious to be involved in every step of decision making your chances of growth and development will be curtailed.
  5. You don’t get support from the top. If you have risen to the position of supervisor or middle manager you can sometimes feel a little like the meat in the sandwich. It’s important you back up the decisions of top management with your team, but equally as important that top management supports you in any issues that may develop with staff.

Your Success is in Your Hands

It is important to understand that you can also play a role in restricting your own development as a leader:

  1. Believing you have “made it”. This is a sure fire recipe for disaster. Managers who feel they have nothing more to learn will not grow – and managers who feel their old skills and knowledge is enough for their new position will fail quickly. This is where a formal assessment can help, such as IMD 360 appraisal tool “a 360 degree appraisal offers you the chance to observe yourself through new eyes, mindfulness – (often associated with the practice of meditation) invites you to observe your own perceptions that normally pass underneath your conscious radar.”
  2. Not developing teamwork with your subordinates. Leadership is about how you inspire others to better results. Failing to communicate, or attempting to take on everything, will not help you or the company you work for. Your success as a leader will hinge upon the ability you develop to help others achieve the results that are needed. A manager believes that their staff are there to serve their needs. A leader believes they are there to serve the needs of their staff.
  3. Failing to invest time in self-development. New positions can often result in longer hours and a heavier workload but don’t let this stop you from the investment of time that your development requires. It’s sometimes easier to get caught on the wheel of workload and not take the time needed to sharpen your skills. Don’t fall into this trap. Push for the opportunity for further learning, be it informal or through top institutions who offer comprehensive leadership training and development through their courses.

Ultimately the responsibility to continue the development of your leadership skills rests with you. Making a conscious decision to not rest on your laurels, but to further your leadership development instead, will make you more effective in your new position and set you up for further promotions in the years ahead.