Why trying to be a perfect leader is a big mistake

Accept that we’re going to make mistakes but we did our best given the time and resources we have at hand

David FullerWhen I was 21, my younger brother Rob (who apparently thought he was a marriage counsellor) told me that there was no perfect wife. He said I should find someone “good enough” and I could make it work if I put in enough effort.

So being a late bloomer, I started dating at the ripe age of 23 and found a woman who settled for good enough when I was 31. Now 24 years of marriage later, it turns out Margaret was perfect for me!

In leadership more than any other aspect of life, there seems to be pressure to be perfect. We think we need to show the perfect image of success with a fancy house, expensive cars and a nice family. We believe we have to keep our emotions in check and can’t explode at work when something goes wrong because leaders never do that.

Since we think people look to us for direction, we wrongly assume they’re looking at us all the time. The pressure we put on ourselves to always get it right and be perfect can be enormous.

More than any time in the past couple of decades, trying to get it perfect now is a big mistake. The changes in the economy, the increased safety demands of government, employees and customers, fluctuating revenues, lack of profitability, and moving targets have amplified the pressures leaders face. Just when we think we can relax, a wave of something else hits us.

We need to focus on good enough. But what does it mean to be good enough?

Good enough doesn’t mean we’re sloppy, careless or inconsiderate. Good enough means we accept that we’re going to make mistakes, that we might not get rich quick, that we might not get every detail right, but we did our best given the time and resources we have at hand.

Good enough means doing our best and being satisfied with that effort.

Leadership and business ownership aren’t brain surgery, rocket science or structural engineering, where good enough might not cut it.

When we’re dealing with people and products, wording and websites, catering or cleaning, perfect never happens. We have to accept the fact that it’s okay to be good enough and not perfect, and get on with things.

And we need to be vulnerable with those around us and ask for help despite the risk of losing our self-imposed image as the great saviour of our organization.

As a business coach, I sometimes deal with people who have anxiety about getting it perfect. They won’t make a phone call to a prospective client, accept an advertisement, hire an employee or introduce a new system until they get it exactly right.

I get it, of course. They want to make sure they don’t make a mistake and look like a fool.

However, the current environment demands we make decisions and move forward – and risk looking like a fool once in a while.

Dale Carnegie said, “Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.”

When we focus on being perfect or trying to get it perfect, we become saddled with inaction because we know we aren’t perfect and we can’t make things perfect. Taking those first small steps toward our goals, even if they aren’t perfect, permit us to overcome the paralysis of indecision.

No one knows what the next few months or years will hold, or if we’re going to make the right decisions about the challenges or opportunities that face us.

But it’s certain that time will continue to keep ticking and if we want to reduce our stress levels, we need to allow ourselves to move away from the idea that we have to be perfect. We need to embrace the notion that giving our best effort is good enough!

Dave Fuller, MBA, is an award-winning business coach, a partner in the firm Pivotleader Inc., and a good enough author, father and husband. It’s perfectly okay to email your comments to dave@pivotleader.com

© Troy Media


perfect leader business

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

You must be logged in to post a comment Login