The Peter Principle and the Saul Syndrome

Not only is the Peter Principle true, but so is the Saul Syndrome.

The Peter Principle is about competence. The Saul Syndrome is about character. While the Peter Principle promotes people to their level of incompetence, the Saul Syndrome promotes people beyond their integrity. Leaders must care about both character and competence—in themselves and their teams.


The Peter Principle, developed by professor Laurence Peter, reveals that people are often promoted based on their performance in their current roles and not based on their ability to function and lead well in the role they are promoted to. The result is “people are promoted to the level of their incompetence.” If the Peter Principle is alive in your context, people are often promoted until they reach a level of leadership they are not equipped or qualified for.

Because of the Peter Principle, wise leaders develop people for roles they will one day fill, not for their current roles.

Not only is the Peter Principle true, but so is the Saul Syndrome.

King Saul eventually crumbled because of his lack of character and integrity. As his leadership and responsibility increased, the cracks in his character became more visible and pronounced. His character could not handle others developing and growing. He was filled with jealousy as songs were sung, “Saul has killed his thousands, but David his tens of thousands” (1 Samuel 18). His character could not handle victory either. After defeating the Amalekites, in pride Saul disobeyed the Lord’s command and instead built a monument to himself (1 Samuel 15). Both pain and victory exposed Saul’s character. Pride, jealousy, and fits of anger raged within his soul. Saul’s ability to lead outpaced his character. His skills were greater than his integrity. And the Lord regretted that He had made Saul king (1 Samuel 15:11).

Read More