Leaders tend to rise to the top because of their leadership qualities.
They are often the people we want to have leading the followers.
They can be chosen from the bottom up, as in elections for members of parliament and provincial legislatures, councils and school boards, or within more exclusive groups like service clubs or organizations of any stripe.
Or they can be chosen from the top down, such as appointments and promotions in corporations, public commissions and committees, and military or para-military establishments.
Sometimes leadership is misplaced. Maybe people making the decisions were misinformed, or maybe nobody better was available at the time the choice had to be made. People like Stephen Harper and Christy Clark immediately spring to mind - but politics is rife with such dubious choices.
Often, a leader is chosen for his or her special abilities or understanding within a specific area of expertise- but the position of leadership itself may put that individual in charge of decisions completely outside his or her expert understanding.
That happens a lot.
The Peter Principle - a hugely popular book in the 1960s - details how often in business, but elsewhere, too, people who are good at something can earn promotions- raising them beyond what they are good at. In fact, they get stuck at a level of incompetence: even if the next promotion would take them back into their area of expertise, they'll never earn that promotion.
Laurence J. Peter's book uses a healthy dollop of humour to detail one way in which leadership can take people beyond their comfort zone, and sometimes into scary territory- scary not only for them, but for those around them.
Somehow, when it comes to choosing our leaders - top down or bottom up - we human beings tend to assume that people who are good at a few things are naturally good at anything.
So some people end up in charge of things about which they know nothing.
So you get weird juxtapositions of leaders completely unsuited to their duties. Take for instance the oxymoronic Environment Minister Peter Kent.
The Americans had a similarly misplaced leader in their military who 150 years ago made a medical decision with negative implications still felt today.
Against the better wishes of his entire contingent of medical staff, General George McClellan practically begged the government Committee on Military Affairs to allow homeopathic practitioners to serve as army surgeons.
Samuel Hahnemann's anti-science alternative to real medicine was just getting a foothold among the gullible masses at the time, and General-In-Chief McClellan's endorsement may well have given the charlatans of the day practicing that travesty of medical and scientific reason a boost responsible for its continuation, when it should have simply died like many of its practitioners' victims.
McClellan, the son of a surgeon, should have known better. But luckily for him, historians have largely ignored his homeopathic gaff - due mostly to his overwhelming (and more easily engrossing) bungling as a battle commander during the American Civil war.
Peter Kent and his boss Stephen Harper, who appear to be aligning themselves with a tiny minority of Canadian ignoramuses who continue to deny the fragility of the environment and reality of a changing climate, should be so lucky when they are judged by historians 150 years from now.