Perfectionist Leaders

You are a leader. And most likely, you are drawn to the SOS Leadership blog because you are striving to learn and grow as a leader, and you genuinely want to make a difference through your leadership. My question today is this: Are you also a perfectionist? If so, this blog is for you.

It seems that many leaders, myself included, struggle with perfectionism, holding themselves to unattainable standards. When others don’t meet my expectations, I strive to respond with empathy and encouragement, yet when I disappoint myself, I often dwell on all of the things I’m doing wrong, rather than everything I’m doing right.

Think about a time when you received a positive evaluation, perhaps a performance review at work, feedback from a professor about a paper you wrote, or a critique of a presentation you gave. Remember the one or two “needs improvement” areas that were noted? If you’re a perfectionist, chances are you remember those with vivid detail, much more than you remember the praise you received. This is often how perfectionists operate, focusing on the few things they did wrong, rather than the many things they do extremely well.

The bottom line is this: Your leadership journey is about learning and growth, not about being perfect. In fact, if you were perfect, people wouldn’t want to follow you. Your imperfection is what makes you relatable.

I really believe that Harriet Braiker said it best, “Striving for excellence motivates you; striving for perfection is demoralizing.” It’s a fine line, but one that can be achieved, particularly when you surround yourself with a strong support system of people who believe in you, encourage you, and remind you often that you’re awesome.

So strive to learn and grow with a focus on being the leader you are called to be! Embrace the journey, always remembering that leadership and learning go hand in hand. Keep learning, keep leading, and keep making a difference! 


If you want to read another thought-provoking blog about perfectionism, check out Who Says You Have to be Perfect?, which was written by guest blogger Jordana Jaffe. 

One thought on “Perfectionist Leaders

  1. ep, I was that person who during a work review received one criticism/area for improvement out of 20+ praises. I was super bummed about the one thing I needed to improve on. Thanks for making me feel normal! “Striving for excellence motivates you; striving for perfection is demoralizing.” Fantastic! I’m adding this to my list of life reflections!

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