Winston Churchill, perhaps one of the greatest leaders of all times, continues to be a leadership muse for me. There are a number of highly regarded people writing books and blogs about leadership, often suggesting that following their formulaic approach ultimately makes the difference between a good leader and a great leader. Such people do us all a great disservice. To quote Churchill: “They say that nobody is perfect. Then they tell you practice makes perfect. I wish they’d make up their minds.”
Perfection occurs serendipitously. And, it isn’t sustainable. So, regardless of what you’re reading about leadership or management, there is no perfect leader or manager walking the face of the earth today. Still, we continue to strive for what we cannot achieve. That creates stress and energy drain that pulls us away from what we can achieve and sustain: Excellence.
So, is your pursuit of perfection holding you back? Here’s a brief True/False checklist you can use to determine whether or not you’re getting in your own way:
- If I want something done right, I have to do it myself.
- If I can’t do something well, I won’t do it all.
- My ideas are usually better than anyone else’s.
- I correct people when they are wrong.
- I find myself blaming others or circumstances when things go “wrong”.
- I give myself opportunities to make learning mistakes.
- I do not rationalize that I am right by making others wrong.
- I do not expect others to make me successful.
- I live up to my commitments.
- I deal graciously with my own mistakes and those made by others.
If you’re after perfection, then you answered statements 1 through 5 as “False” and 6 through 10 as “True”. Wait! Do I hear someone out there questioning the methodology? Do I hear someone muttering, “This is nonsense!” If that’s you, I’ll bet you didn’t get all 10 “right”, did you? Does not conforming with the suggested correct answers make you less than perfect? Why does that bother you? How does not conforming with someone else’s definition of perfection impact your relationship with that person?
Well, there you have it. From my perspective, the relentless pursuit of sustainable perfection is playing a fool’s game and hoping to win. Author and journalist Anna Quindlen, invites us all to play a different game. In her words, “The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.”
Why not give Anna’s game a chance? You might find that an imperfect you actually makes a much better parent, child, sibling, spouse, partner, leader. It usually makes you a much nicer person be around as well.