How to Accept Imperfection Like a Leader
If I could begin my leadership journey again, I’d accept imperfection.
Leadership begins after you accept imperfection.
If I could take back the time I wasted on searching for perfection – before I took action – I’d be young again. More important, I’d have wisdom from learning as I go, not before I go.
The right answer is the one that’s good enough to create imperfect progress. Get going.
Accept imperfection – enable connection. Vulnerabilities are magnets that pull us together. Give others a glimpse of your imperfections if you expect transparency and candor from them.
Accept imperfection – enable action. Initiative is deadly in organizations that punish mistake-makers. The pursuit of better is an acknowledgement of imperfection. There are no iterations of perfection. Accepting imperfection is a starting point, not an end.
Every responsible mistake you punish drains boldness from the team.
Accept imperfection – ignite boldness. The next time someone screws up, say, “Thanks for trying.” Pat them on the back and ask, “What will you do differently next time?”
Confront mistakes of neglect. Celebrate mistakes of initiative.
Less talented teammates require more intervention and supervision.
The brighter and more talented your team, the more necessary it is to accept imperfection. Marshall Goldsmith warns leaders against ‘adding too much value.’ Go with their imperfect ideas.
People love, implement, and improve their own ideas.
Make people smarter by taking them seriously.
- Reject unethical behaviors.
- Reject substandard performance from those with demonstrated competence.
- Reject imperfect teammates when they don’t aspire to improve. Accepting imperfection isn’t an excuse to luxuriate in mediocrity.
- Reject imperfection when it causes harm.
If you aspire to connect, accept imperfection.
If you hope to tap into the brains around you, accept imperfection.
If you seek engagement, accept imperfection.
If you expect action, accept imperfection.
How might leaders accept and leverage imperfection?
When should imperfection be rejected?
This is on point. Teams always have individuals with a variety of strengths and challenges. A leader accepting and modeling vulnerability is a powerful development tool.
Thanks Geri. Modeling the way means going first. That includes vulnerability. 🙂
You have me struggling on this one for sure!
We spend our whole lives perfecting the imperfections because we were taught that way.
Do your best in tasks, be the best in appearance, run the fastest, leap the highest, yet we all have imperfections! For us it comes down to what is acceptable? Do we hold ourselves to a higher value or just coast getting by with the minimal? The epitome of us is imperfection till we learned or were taught perfection! As with all your posts we need to see the entire picture!
Good one Dan!
Thanks Tim. I really resonate with the idea that accepting imperfection isn’t the same as just coasting. I find the idea of ‘playing dead’ offensive. You got me thinking about the difference between accepting imperfection and pursuing excellence.
We are all thinking, creating visions, sharing ideas, working out our imperfections, learning to accept each other! Endless journey for Leadership!
My initial reaction is but, but, but… accept imperfection? Instinctually, I react but upon reflection, imperfection and “yet quite there yet” are places of growth and innovation. It is a way to get better and continue improvement rather than spending too much time & energy on an 85% solutions that continues to make progress.
Thanks for the reminder and challenge!
Thanks McSteve. I’m so glad you shared the process you went through. Your response is what writing Leadership Freak is all about. Think things over…agree…disagree…challenge yourself…be encouraged. Cheers
Dan – good stuff. And I had an interesting thought. A senior manager friend was looking for some intervention for his top management C-suite team and I shared some different ideas, like working through a book like Immunity to Change or Excellence in Execution. Then, I opened YOUR blog and wondered if the team might commit to reading your blog every day and commenting within their own intranet about their individual and collective thoughts about each of your posts and what it meant to them and their team and their organization.
Do you have any thoughts on that? Or, might you package “a course” where you offered up The Best of Leadership Freak as a learning opportunity for senior people?
I suggested he check out this blog post if he thought the idea interesting, so he may also see this post. BUT, I do think that the idea is an actionable one that WOULD generate some more teamwork and self-assessment and similar. And that you might develop a new stream of income somehow…
Thanks Dr. Scott. It’s so cool that you thought of this. Leadership teams all over the world read leadership freak and use it as a development tool.
One way they use it is someone selects a Freak of the Week to discuss. However teams use it, I think the most important things is to implement a behavior and come back and talk about what they learned.
I’ve actually thought about packaging some blogs and putting together some themes for teams to use. Cheers
Do It! People are generally too lazy to do this kind of thing for themselves. Maybe let’s bundle a few Square Wheels powerpoints into the basic framework and sell it as a tool, along the lines you describe. ANYTHING to get some reflection done at the top so that it just might trickle down through other levels of an organization. As I said in a “poster” the other day, employees are people, too…
YOU have to package this for them; they simply will not do it themselves, even though that process itself would be impactful and enlightening…
Rock and Roll!
Thanks for the encouragement.
I enjoyed this post,
I plan to borrow :”Confront mistakes of neglect. Celebrate mistakes of initiative”
Far too many mangers look for whats broken.
Cultures that welcome risk taking drive innovation.
Team’s fear filled have low engagement and people doing just enough to get by.
Again, I enjoyed the post!
Thanks Mark. I’m thankful to write something that might be useful to you.
Fear seems to instigate short term burst of ‘engagement,’ like running from a bear. But, that’s not what we look for. Fear and low engagement are cousins.
I think accepting imperfection is great and seeing imperfection in a leader that embraces it, makes them a better leader. If my organization punished mistakes, then it would be difficult to admit that I made a mistake in the first place and then I would not learn from them. By being able to come forward to a leader and accept that I made a mistake, this gives them the opportunity to teach me and help me learn from my mistake.
Thanks Mitra. Brilliant observation. I love, “If my organization punished mistakes, then it would be difficult to admit that I made a mistake in the first place and then I would not learn from them.”
Best wishes with your class.
I except imperfections in myself and others. A leader should always look for strengths and weakness and try to tailor work and communications around that. We always think we use the exact same unit of measure for each employ but to be honest do we?
Walt. I agree with you and simply add these thoughts: Remember that something like 85% of male automobile drivers rate themselves in the top 50% of all drivers. Similar overratings occur for things like skiing, pool playing, basketball or whatever. I would guess that many have the same kind of view about their leadership abilities or whatever…
And even if there ARE metrics, people discount them. Take a look at our President to see what facts about his performance he seems willing to accept, even in regards to attendance at an Inauguration or number of votes cast by people…
When an actual company CEO says that employee involvement is, “like asking the vegetables how to design a refrigerator” – an actual quote in an all manager retreat — you can guess at the reality that this issue Dan writes about might be problematic for many people in many organizations.
WOW! and there goes my head. Thank you for the follow up input.
People don’t take risks or stick their neck out if their afraid of the repercussions if they fail. Loved this post.
Thanks Notes…that’s the truth!
Would you consider collecting your daily leadership Freak blogs into a calendar devotional book? Our department often features your blog as our daily devotional-a book would be great! Thank-you for your consideration-mostly thank-you for your generous leadership mentoring.
Thanks Dawn. One of these days, yes.
Imperfections are our opportunities to examine ourselves more in depth. We all have them in different areas. We need to remember perfection is unattainable, but by striving for it, we can obtain excellence. And that’s pretty darn good!
Thanks David. Love the idea of reaching high in order to obtain excellence.
Liked the contents of your post and a new innovative way to progress!
Imperfection is the right way to learn and unlearn many things to adopt better ways to succeed. Good leaders will certainly prefer to go with people who are creative and can contribute well to achieve peak results. In the process, leaders will enhance their skills of listening and implementing new things with humility and commitment.
The rejection of imperfection can happen when the business values are at stakes. Moreover, beating competition at the market place forces you to go with a compromised stand on product quality or its delivery which can harm long-term image. Good leaders then will have a tough stand and insist the perfection protecting overall business interest.
Thanks Dr. Asher. Great seeing you here today. If I understand, we must not accept second rate products, makes perfect sense to me. Accepting imperfection isn’t the same thing accepting mediocrity.
Cautioning leaders about “adding too much value” really resonates. Stepping back and having the discipline to stay back in order to give people space to learn was particularly tough for me. It wasn’t until my own perspective grew significantly about what I was valuing that I was able to stop meddling. Thank you for the great reminder!
I think they call that, “Don’t Just DO Something, Stand There!” — Stepping back does help to improve perspective on pretty much everything. And there is never quite the right balance point, but it is possible to do less and get more, it seems.