Breaking the Habit of Leadership Perfectionism

Perfectionism’s negative tendencies outweigh the positives when taken to extremes. As a coach, I see first-hand how working for a perfectionistic leader can be unbearable when they:

  • Are generally inflexible and loath to entertain other ideas
  • Become self-righteous when they’ve determined their analysis is thorough and needs no improvement
  • Hover over employees, attempting to ensure each task is performed perfectly
  • Emphasize the value of hard work, obsess over details, quickly highlight errors and believe mistakes are catastrophic
  • Convey distrust in others with their language and tone
  • Decline to delegate in order to protect their systems, values and control

When this topic comes up with the leaders I coach, we discuss how perfectionists must learn to back away from the relentless urge to seek an unblemished track record.

Virtually no project will run flawlessly in the business world. Excellence is attainable, so learn to differentiate it from perfection. Over-the-top efforts to realize perfection are unnecessary and counterproductive.

Perfectionistic leaders can learn that success is earned by giving their best and making the most practical choices. Mistakes and oversights are common, and there are always creative ways to work around, mitigate and minimize their impact. The world will never run on perfection, nor will any conscientious leader.

You see, leaders must recognize how their criticisms affect people and their work. Take the time to gauge morale and productivity levels. Work with a trusted colleague, mentor or coach to improve how you offer feedback and suggestions.

Leaders who are determined to conquer their perfectionistic tendencies will make the greatest strides, as Beatrice Chestnut, PhD, explains in The 9 Types of Leadership: Mastering the Art of People in the 21st Century Workplace (Post Hill Press, 2017). Changing one’s mindset is a process that requires transparency and humility. Diligent leaders can learn to adopt proper perspectives.

Reformed perfectionists learn how to be open to other ideas, agree to be teachable and recognize that no one has all the answers. Problems can be solved in multiple ways. The most successful leaders surround themselves with smart, innovative people who bring great ideas to the table. Collaboration is a strength; valuing only your own ideas is a liability.

What do you think? What steps have you taken to break the habit of leadership perfectionism? If you would like more information or wish to connect with me for coaching, I’d love to hear from you. You can reach me here and on LinkedIn.