zandax online course logo
zandax website search
zandax phone callback
Info, Blogs, Contact & Login

SKILL vs WILL: Which Better Determines Success?

From the ZandaX Career Success Blog

Articles to help you manage and advance your career

Home  >  ZandaX Blogs  >  Business Blog  >  Career Success Articles  > 
SKILL vs WILL: Which Better Determines Success?

SKILL vs WILL: Which Better Determines Success?

A post from our Career Success blog

Article author: Steve
      Written by Steve
If the title of this article prompted you to take a look, it's pretty likely that you're serious about your career. Your drive for success may be financial – rising high, or earning commission, or pushing your own business to success. But it could be based on something else: think of a scientist or innovator who wants to push the boundaries, or the charity worker who wants to achieve great outcomes, or the group (or department) leader who wants to make a difference.

If you want to succeed – and here I mean really succeed – there are two important things you need as a basic foundation. I'm not giving you anything revolutionary: these concepts are often quoted and expounded upon. Why, there's even a Skill-Will Matrix if you want to get technical about it. But in this article I'm giving you my quick assessment of how the two (that's Skill and Will) fit together and how you can use a simple understanding of them to assess what you need to do, or even (dare I say) whether you have it in you, to succeed.



Skill is the quantifiable foundation of what you do. You can take a test if you like, but it's about your capability to perform the tasks required of you. At a basic level you'll know whether you can do a job, or how well you can do it. You can often watch other people and see whether they are better than you, and where you need to improve. Sometimes that skill can only truly come with experience: think of the time-served manager or supervisor who just seems to have the knack of resolving issues without missing a beat.

Yes, skill is the foundation. Without it, how can you hope to succeed?

But you can always improve. You can read, observe, attend training, receive coaching and even take on a mentor (if you're lucky enough to get a good one). Although getting better at what you do can take a lot of effort, there are always ways you can do it.


Will is the driver of your success. It's what you have within you, the thing that determines whether you can overcome the obstacles that appear in your way. Because they do.

But I don't mean a loose desire to have or achieve something – that's just a "Wish". We all have a wish list: you may want to buy a new car, or your next house or maybe speak to the person of your dreams who waits at the bus stop every morning. But, -- and this is important -- do you have the will to actually achieve these things?

How many times have I interviewed someone (and I've done a fair bit of this...) who tells me that they're really passionate about success, of doing their job well, and so on? Yes, lots of times. And I'll tell you what: most don't know what they're talking about. They've never actually thought it through, because if they had, they wouldn't be talking this way. They have often set their bar too high, and if so, they are setting themselves up to fail. They should find a definition of success that matches their level of will.
One of my favourite quotations comes from Thomas Edison, who said:

"When you have exhausted all possibilities, remember this - you haven't."

Thomas Edison
Brilliant: just think of how much will he had, and if he hadn't, would we have light bulbs nowadays? (Well, yes, but they'd have come a lot later.)

Skill vs Will – Which Wins?

Maybe the next question you may ask is, which is the most important between skill and will – if you had to pick one, what would be the winner?

The fact is, there's no "obvious" winner – success involves a combination of the two. But read on, because in my not-too-humble opinion, one of them does come out on top.

Of course, you need the foundation of skill in order to perform ... and there are ways to make yourself better. But what do you do when "stuff happens"? If a good salesperson has a bad month, do they knuckle down, analyse, and vow to do better, or do they blame the market, company and/or management? If a capable executive hits resistance to changes they want to make, do they seek ways to overcome the opposition, or do they just give up? If a brilliant inventor hits a brick wall with a project, are they going to try new ways to approach it, or will they just move on to something else?

New Idea
I expect most of us agree that James Dyson (sorry… Sir James…) is/ was/ will always be a very talented and capable man. After all, he invented the bagless vacuum cleaner, and now we have things like hand dryers and cooling fans without blades. But if you read his story, you will learn about the enormous technical and commercial difficulties he had to overcome over many years. Without extraordinary will (and, for the record, an immensely supportive wife) he would not be the household name that he is today.

In my view, people need a level of skill to even come into the reckoning. Improving skills is easy if you pick the right course of action: we have proved it thousands of times. But if you're really going to succeed, you need the will to do so. And although "will" is far more difficult to assess, because it lies within, and can only be tested in adversity, my conclusion is that it is the true driver of success.

It's a bit like dating, really (as far as I can remember…) where there are certain basics like appearance, manners a sense of humour, and probably cleanliness. (Make your own list, but whatever you do, don't forget cleanliness...) These form the "essentials" and if someone doesn't match up in the areas that are important to you, they'll have a hard job getting anywhere. But once into a relationship there are other things like loyalty, trustworthiness and thoughtfulness which take it to a different level. That's why you sometimes see someone who may be scruffy, or unattractive, with someone who appears to be way out of their class. It's usually because they score highly on the important things. I hope I haven't veered too far off topic here, but in the same way, a lack of skill can be overcome with masses of will.

So although it's best, and less stressful, to have the skills you need, if for any reason you're unable – or need time – to develop them, you must be able to draw on your will to succeed.

In a perfect world, we recruit people with both. But if I'm given the choice between someone who needs development but is driven, and someone who is highly skilled but seems to lack genuine desire, it will be the first one every time. In fact, I'll be excited by the prospect of watching them grow.

What Can You Do?

OK, let's be frank: your own self-assessment may be biased, because, in working situations,  I've not met too many people who say they don't want to succeed. But if you want to be fair to yourself, you need to look back on times of hardship, on setbacks you've had, and assess whether you did all you could, or could you have done more? Have you failed but blamed others without considering your own shortcomings? If the answer is yes, that's ok, but it's important to learn from your mistakes. If the answer is no, in other words you have always done the right thing, you may want to dig deeper and ask yourself again. Don't beat yourself up, but resolve to do more and try harder next time. Sometimes what appears to be a failure of will can actually be a lack of awareness, or even confidence.

But at the end of any day, in any situation, it's better to be realistic – so even if you realise that success (in whatever way you've defined it) doesn't actually matter as much as you thought, then that's fine: accept it and take the pressure off yourself and those around you. If you're still adamant that success is important to you, you should be sure that your will is at least the equal of your skill.

And whatever your choice, I hope this article helps you to reach a conclusion that gives you a happy outcome.

Back to the Career Success blog

Click the button for more Career Success articles.

The ZandaX Business Skills blog

Click a panel for great articles on business skills

Write For Us

We pride ourselves on our busy, high-quality and helpful blog, and we're always looking for guest contributors to increase the variety and diversity of what we present.

Click to see how you can write for us with an original and well-written guest post.

ZandaX Blog Contents

Want to see them all? Click to view a full list of articles in our blogs.

Online courses to boost your skills
Click a button to see more about each course
Personal Development
Microsoft Software
Leadership & Management
Sales & Presentations
Service & Support
ZandaX online training course logo
ZandaX – Change Your Life ... Today
All content © ZandaX 2023
ZandaX LinkedIn logo
ZandaX LinkedIn logo
ZandaX LinkedIn logo
Close menu element
See how you score on a range of skills that are critical to your well-being and performance
Communication Skill test
Communication Skills
How Can You Communicate Better?
Would you like to see what kind of communicator you are? And how you can improve the effectiveness of your communications?
Likeability test
How Much Do People Like You?
Do you sometimes wonder just how likeable you are? And wouldn't you like to see how you can (genuinely) become more likeable?

Time Management test
Time Management
How Can You Make More Use Of Your Time?
Are you frustrated by how easily time slips away? Do you get frustrated when things don't get done just because you run out of time?
Assertiveness test
Are you Passive, Aggressive or Assertive?
Would you like to know where you fall on the behavior spectrum? Does your response to events sometimes surprise you?

Close menu element
Information & Resources
ZandaX information
Read more about us, our Privacy Policy and our Terms of Service
See how we want to help you, and how we make everything easy for everyone
Callback request
ZandaX Blogs
Articles to increase your knowledge and understanding in key areas of your life and career.
Read our blogs on Personal Development, Business Skills and Leadership & Management

Time Management test
Log In
Log in to your online dashboard
View your courses, review what you want and download your workbooks and certificates
Assertiveness test
Contact Us
An easy online form to get in touch
With options for More Information, Customer Service and Feedback

Close menu element
Develop Your Skills, Knowledge and Understanding with ZandaX
Click any subject in the listings for more information and a full list of courses

Personal Development
Personal Development training
Your soft skills affect everything you do, at work, at home and with friends ... they are truly life changing!
Online training courses
Hot Off the Press...
We're always adding to and upgrading our courses, so here are a few of our latest releases:
For a full listing of courses, please visit our Quick Course Finder to find exactly what you want.
Site Cookies
We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better.

You can change your cookie settings in your browser. Otherwise, we'll assume you're OK to continue.

I'm fine with this