Presentation by Philipp Chapkovsky: Climbing Up the Friendship: the 'Loyalty vs Competence Dilemma' of Appointments

Our Centre held one more presentation within the framework of the open public seminars by Phillipp Chapkovsky who is currently the Ph.D. researcher at the European University Institute in Florence (Italy) and the European University at Saint-Petersburg. This time we discussed the dilemma of any appointment be it the political sphere or private sector company, the infamous trade-off between loyalty and competence. Our presenter puts this dilemma into a new perspective in comparative political studies.

A dilemma which encounters every head of a big organization with, all the more – a state, is to select such cadres which would be sufficiently competent and, at the same time, would not outshine the head with their competences and, thereby, endanger his or her political positions. The secret of survival and success can be boiled down to the choice of the optimal balance between loyalty and competence. Given the complex multilevel hierarchical structures where a head or a chief is simultaneously someone’s subordinate, this head as a subordinate has to send some complex signals above in order to succeed in his or her carrier. This signal should contain a correct mix of loyalty and competence. Such external shocks as political regime change break the equilibrium of bureaucratic systems and lead to their movement. For instance, in the case of authoritarian turn the demand for more loyal subordinates increases.

The key issue of this sort of analysis is that all these phenomena – both loyalty and competence – cannot be directly observed. This lecture will be devoted to the instruments that could help to reconstruct and study how exactly the categories of loyalty and competence operate within the realm of executive power.


Philipp Chapkovsky – graduated the Department of Economics at the Università Ca'Foscari di Venezia (Italy), he is currently the Ph.D. researcher at the European University Institute (Florence, Italy) and the European University at Saint Petersburg, the correspondent of the magazine “the Russian Reporter” (Russkiy Reporter) as well as such online media outlets as Expert, Slon, Vedomosty etc.