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The Ladder Of Success

“Management is efficiency in climbing
the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning
against the right wall.” — Stephen R. Covey

This is a fun aphorism, especially since it doesn’t say anything
useful. What’s more, it’s probably not even true. Still, it sure sounds pithy.

Suppose you are assigned the task of hiring a manager for an
important project. The first applicant says, “I’m efficient in climbing the
ladder of success.” You ask what that means and are told, “I have mastered
being effective without wasting time or effort or expense. I’m efficient.”

You then ask for an explanation of the ladder of success and
hear, “Well, it’s when you start at the bottom and climb up rung by rung. The
higher you go, the more successful you are.” You ask what is being climbed up
and are told, “Well, the ladder of success.”

You then scratch your head and ask, “Let me see if I have this
right. You are terrific at wasting no time or effort or expense on your way to
the top?” The applicant smiles and says, “You got that right; and I’m hoping
you will let me use your project as my next rung.”

If you subscribe to Covey’s definition of management, you don’t
need a second applicant. The first one is just what the doctor ordered, so to
speak. That only leaves determining whether the ladder is leaning against the
right wall. The applicant has determined that your project is his right wall.
How do you think you will address that perception in the letter you send
following the employment interview you just terminated?

Okay, perhaps that wasn’t Covey’s point. “Managers do
things right. Leaders do the right things,” may be his point. This sounds
like somewhat more conventional wisdom but isn’t very helpful either. It’s
likely that being able to determine that your project is the right wall isn’t
your idea of doing the right things. If you are also looking for a leader,
finding someone who shares your vision for your project is a better choice than
someone who thinks he has a better vision for your future. The leader you need
is the one who can help you get from here to there, as you climb that ladder of
success together.

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