Personal Factors in Leadership Success

When coaching leaders in the importance of

  • Engaging others in what they are trying to accomplish
  • Seeking the input of those who express contrary opinions
  • Earnestly understanding opposing points of view
  • Appreciating a different approach to problem solving

my words often fall on deaf ears.  Frequently, successful people believe their continued success depends upon rigid adherence to what they perceive has caused their achievements so far.  If command and control has been their ticket to success so far, they may have a difficult time understanding that changes in circumstance may render that style of leadership useless.

This is when I pull out a study done by Leadership Performance Systems, Inc., The Relationship of Personal Qualities to Leadership Success.  While the study was done in 2003, the literature is only more emphatic today that building relationships with others is the key to leadership success.  The study synthesizes the data from over 800 articles on factors that contribute to leadership success or failure.

For many leaders, presenting them with clear and convincing data is the first step to changing their minds.  The chart below illustrates the results of this survey.  An example of the information contained in this study: the juxtaposition of how little “Technical Expertise” contributes to leadership success or failure, versus the significant the impact of “Relationship Building”.

The Relationship of Personal Qualities to Leadership Success

(Ranked by Derailment)

Percent Related

Percent Related

Behavior Cluster

to Success

to Derailment

Relationship Building
Caring, showing interest, fairness and trustworthy, understanding, displays empathy and vulnerability, seeks feedback



Career ambition, courage, adaptability, perseverance, self-awareness, time management, perspective taking, discernment, attention-focus, acts on feedback



Cognitive Complexity
Managing ambiguity and paradox, creativity, managing diversity and system complexity, seeks to understand unintended consequences



Technical Expertise
Functional skills, specific business acumen



Supportive, informing, confronting skills, presentations, writing clarity, demonstrates no pre-judgment, collaborative inquiry



Action orientation, command skills, organizing, prioritizing, results orientation



Meta Competencies:

Flexibility – Ability to evaluate and adjust response.

Learning – Ability to learn from experience.

The Study:

In a study of 937 published research articles, an analysis is reported that indicates the percentage (%) of articles on topics related to success and failure in organizations.
Articles published in every major journal or bulletin since 1985 are included in the analysis.
Studies selected are listed in social sciences indexes related to leadership and management behavior.

Articles on Success Factors: n=683      Articles on Failure Factors: n=254

© 2003 Leadership Performance Systems, Inc.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: