The Psychology of Leadership Incompetence

Mark Hughes

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceeding with ISSN or ISBNConference contribution with ISSN or ISBNpeer-review


Theories and practices of leadership in celebrating competence and capability fail to engage with leadership incompetence. However, the high human costs of organizational failures increasingly encourage us to understand incompetent leaders. In On the Psychology of Military Incompetence, Dixon (1976) critically analysed military disasters throughout history highlighting the incompetency of particular generals. The leadership aspects of what happened at Stafford Hospital were analysed using twelve questions informed by Dixon’s earlier research. In the discussion, the NHS leadership framework is compared and contrasted with Dixon’s framework. Engaging with leadership incompetence is facilitated through asking awkward/provocative questions – lest we forget. Understanding leadership incompetence tends to be retrospective with leaders and institutions either conscious or unconscious of leadership incompetence. Consequently leadership development requires case studies of leadership incompetence which encourage critical self-questioning and reflective leadership development and practice.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBAM2014 Proceedings
Place of PublicationLondon, UK
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2014
EventBAM 2014: The role of the business school in supporting economic and social development - Belfast Waterfront, Belfast, United Kingdom
Duration: 9 Sept 201411 Sept 2014


ConferenceBAM 2014
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


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