Working for a Perfectionistic Leader

Are you working for a perfectionistic leader?  Here’s a tip: submissiveness is not the answer. And as much as you’d like to, resist the urge to express resentment, defiance or disrespect. Rebelliousness goads perfectionists into reacting, worsening your relationship and causing irreparable damage.

Instead, demonstrate your commitment to excellence by telling your boss that you, too, value quality and integrity—a strategy that will enhance your relationship. You see, perfectionistic leaders value unity, knowing it’s key to attaining excellence. They want to be understood and have their core values appreciated.

So while you may disagree on specific methods, work toward conveying your opinions and finding workable compromises, as Beatrice Chestnut, PhD, advises in The 9 Types of Leadership: Mastering the Art of People in the 21st Century Workplace (Post Hill Press, 2017).

How? When this topic comes up with my coaching clients, I share these seven steps:

  1. Emphasize common goals so your boss values your partnership enough to address disagreements willingly.
  2. Discuss differences in rational, calm and respectful ways.
  3. Help your boss see alternative paths to goals. Outline pros and cons to discover why your leader prefers one approach to another.
  4. Be willing to critique your own ideas, as well. Detail-oriented leaders value input when they’re guided to objective conclusions.
  5. Work methodically; perfectionists, who think clearly and definitively, are more likely to be on your wavelength.
  6. Find ways to express appreciation for your boss’s willingness to solve problems and make decisions jointly.
  7. Be accountable and willing to apologize for mistakes or delays, which builds trust and prevents judgmental responses.

Perfectionistic leaders appreciate positive, but honest, feedback when their teams are attentively pursuing their goals. You can support your boss’s coveted processes and procedures while offering additional ideas. Let your boss see you as a consistently positive and trustworthy influence, which may diminish hypervigilance and micromanagement.

When perfectionistic leaders accept alternate strategies, their grip on black-and-white thinking may loosen. They may come to realize that success doesn’t require perfection or a breakneck work pace. As they learn that processes benefit from some give-and-take, their leadership style may evolve.

What other steps do you take to compromise when working for a perfectionistic leader?  You can reach me here and on LinkedIn.