“In a democracy, someone who fails to get elected to office can always console himself with the thought that there was something not quite fair about it.” ― Thucydides
The people I see moving up the corporate ladder are the ones with talent, skills, knowledge, experience, potential for long-term success, and the personal goals to do the job.
In a competitive environment where everyone does a great job, personality certainly plays a role.
Additionally, successful executives have to the ability to promote their skills as being better than those of their competitors are. If no one knows that a person is doing a great job, how can a person expect rewards for the job they are doing?
In the Navy, I served under three Navy commanding officers. Each one of them was from my point of view, the most qualified person for the job aboard the ship. I have had managers who were not exceedingly talented, but I never had a manager who was unqualified to manage their responsibilities.
Office politics do exist. Successful people practice them every day. Powerful politics begin with powerful performance. Therefore, I focus on performance. As for politics, I practice politics the way Spencer Tracy practiced his craft as an actor. He loved to act. He also believed in not being caught at it.