The magical world of the British elite

Review: Douglas Board’s Elites gives clues as to how to become one of the select few, but argues it's not what it's cracked up to be.

by Linda Holbeche

Why is it that some people get to the top while others - equally well qualified, or better – don’t? This is the perennial mystery explored by Douglas Board in his intriguing book, Elites. 

As a member of an elite himself – now an executive coach, Board is a former senior head-hunter and chair of a major charity – he is well qualified to explore the question, which he curiously decides to do using terms from the world of magic.

So, members of any elite are ‘wizards’. Junior specialists are ‘artisans’ who only occasionally become wizards (think Mark Zuckerberg or Mick Jagger). Hard-working, middle-ranking managers and professionals are ‘muggles’ who slog their guts out to do a good job. They believe in meritocracy yet, despite their efforts, muggles rarely break through the glass ceiling to the top and remain in the ‘muggle crust’; they are also more vulnerable than wizards to being disposed of. 

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