Key Differences between Successful and Effective Leaders

 About 25 years ago researcher Fred Luthans published a highly insightful but mostly ignored article on the differences between successful and effective leaders. Luthans identified successful leaders using promotion rates--those who had been rapidly promoted over a five year period. Effective leaders were those who had achieved results that consistently beat the competition.


Luthans reported that successful leaders spent considerably more time networking and staying on top of office politics and relatively little time managing people, teams, and business results. Effective leaders had just the opposite profile and focused on their people and teams rather than office politics. Interestingly only 10 percent of the managers in this study were both successful and effective.


Luthans' findings are very consistent with the managerial derailment research, as most of the high-potential candidates in these studies had been identified because of their ability to impress others but derailed because of their inability to build teams that achieved superior results. The distinction between successful and effective leaders in government and the military was vividly described in Thomas Ricks' two books, Fiasco and The Generals.


Modern day public and private organizations confuse these two concepts, as many are led by successful leaders but most of the heavy lifting is done by effective leaders.Does your organization recognize the distinction between leadership effectiveness and success? Does your organization's leadership competency model say more about the skills needed to get promoted or to build teams that win? Is it more likely to promote those good at "strategic sucking up" or those who consistently build teams that achieve results?