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There are a multitude of books available on the topic of managerial success. The literature discusses how to measure and predict success, the motivation behind success, even the pitfalls of success. Success, however, does not necessarily equate to effectiveness. This is where a discussion comparing successful managers to effective managers may be useful.

Success And Effectiveness Are Not Interchangeable

For managers, the definition of success in the management sciences literature is the ability to be promoted. With that in mind, a successful manager is one that rises through the organization quickly. On the other hand, an effective manager is one who is able to manage his own work and that of his team in the best way possible, thereby helping to attain the overall strategy of the organization. There is a significant difference and in some ways, conflicting goals between the two. While it makes sense that effective managers are more likely to be successful, it may not always be the case, as success does not presume effectiveness.

Success May Not Require Effectiveness

It is possible that managers who have satisfied criteria for success, by moving up in the organization, may not be very effective. In his piece, “Successful vs. Effective Real Managers”, Fred Luthans opines that there may be very little in common between success and effectiveness. He contends that being an “astute politician” – as many successful managers are – does not require being effective. Luthans reminds us that successful managers are not engaged in the same day-to-day activities as effective managers. Perhaps the idea that success may not require effectiveness is a contributing factor to the performance problem facing modern organizations today.

The Challenges Managers Face When Aiming To Be Effective

If success is defined in terms of being promoted, it is easy to quantify. Effectiveness on the other hand is defined in terms of being able to produce a desired result through a combination of direct and delegated output. How does one measure managerial effectiveness? The literature is silent and there is, at this point, no published quantitative measure of effectiveness. There is some research around performance, but it tends to be linked to specific activities as opposed to the actual process of obtaining results in the organization.

From the perspective of managers, measuring effectiveness can come from recording the amount of time it takes to perform tasks that further the job they were hired to do. Nevertheless, The Effective Managers™ / Telfer School of Management test research in this area confirms that a majority of managers are operating at only sixty percent effectiveness.

What Drives Or Constrains Managerial Effectiveness?

To truly understand the relationship between effectiveness and success, managers need to first understand how to be effective. What are the drivers that either constrain or promote effectiveness? Managers often feel accountable for various things in the workplace, yet when we measure clarity of accountability, only 65% feel that they receive clear instruction about what they are being held accountable for. This lack of clarity causes a serious disconnect, where people want to do well, but are unable to, as they focus on the wrong things. The result? An ineffectiveness that is often overlooked simply because managers are not aware that this disconnect exists.

Check out our research into this area on our research page.