In short the Peter Principle is this: that someone who is in a high position, whether through assignment or promotion, is not qualified to hold that position, either because of temperment, lack of knowledge of what’s required for handling the demands of that job, election or, well…etc., etc… We can see this played out daily in the heads of our banking system, especially in the leadership of the Federal Reserve. We see it in our government officials. The Peter Principle is everyswhere on display–just below the surface. Officially it is the principle that “In a Hierarchy Every Employee Tends to Rise to His Level of Incompetence”, a proposition formulated by Dr. Laurence J. Peter and Raymond Hull back in 1969 (The Peter Principle).
So widespread is this phenomenon now that the term is coming into prominent use again, but with a less polite rendering: Peter Principle is now simply Fakery. Times Online, for example, offers this:
“When it comes, it will be a gentle tap on the shoulder. A low, kind voice. “C’mon, Senior. Vacate the chair. The real columnist is back, and wants her space. Get your coat.” And off I will shuffle, unmasked as a fake, back to writing nuggets of news in brief. Imposter phenomenon. The unremitting conviction that you are employed on a fraudulent basis, that your talents are inadequate, and only quirks of fate and circumstance mean that you are sitting in the chair doing your job, rather than the countless others who are better qualified to do it. Faking it…”
BTW, here’s a good introduction to The Peter Principle.