Perfect [adj] – having all the required or desirable elements, qualities, or characteristics; as good as it is possible to be.

Isn’t this what we want from businesses and leaders we deal with?

I would argue not – that what we want is a level of imperfection. It’s better for businesses and better for us.

While traditional leadership models are about command and control, with leaders being almost omniscient, having all the answers and able to do everything, the complexity of the modern world means models around the perfectionist leader need to be rethought.

There are, of course, a number of self-admitted, successful perfectionists. Steve Jobs comes to mind as one, although he was able to temper this in later years, to the enormous benefit of Apple. But perfectionism is costly.

The fundamental problem is that the perfectionist will check, and re-check, everything to ensure it’s perfect. This leads to delays in getting things done, and delays lead to missed opportunities.

Perfectionists are inflexible, too – the phrase, “my way or the highway” was undoubtably coined by one. Having such a narrow view of the best way to do something will impede creativity and innovation, and no business can grow without these, particularly in such volatile times.  

And, of course, perfectionists do not take risks – the very nature of risk being action without all the facts that will ensure success. Sometimes we just have to ‘trust our gut’ in business and take a risk, albeit generally calculated, to move ahead.

And then there are the cultural aspects. Perfectionist leaders tend to expect perfection from their team, too, and set impossible standards for others. Micromanagement generally follows, checking the details of everything being done. A culture of open accountability is simply not something they understand.

Successful business today is about flexibility, adaptability and the speed of reaction to change. A top-down culture is simply incapable of delivering this, except, perhaps, in the very smallest businesses. Successful businesses are built around a strong culture of open accountability, with a team of great people who are left to get on with their jobs and deliver the results. They have a clear vision and a strong, dynamic strategy, recognising the need for change as circumstances dictate.

And the leaders of these businesses recognise this. They seek the opinions of others, understand they do not know everything and rely on others to compensate for missing skills, do not try to do everything themselves but rather are great at delegating to the most capable, and view themselves more as the conductor of an orchestra than the lead in every instrument. Above all, they understand and accept that they are imperfect, and their leadership strength is drawn from this.

They are consciously imperfect leaders – with a clear understanding of their strengths and weaknesses, and the willingness to work with a strong team that complements, and enhances them. They recognise the need to adapt as things change, not just the business, but themselves, and they’re committed to ongoing development – of themselves and the team.

And don’t confuse imperfect leaders with incompetent ones. Incompetent leaders have little idea of their limitations, they are not self-aware, so they cannot effectively lead, nor adapt.

So, don’t strive for perfection – it will hold your business back. Rather accept a level of imperfection – your business will grow more quickly and strongly, and your stress levels will be lower, too.

As Stephen Hawking said, “One of the basic rules of the universe is that nothing is perfect. Perfection simply doesn’t exist… Without imperfection, neither you nor I would exist.” 

Embrace imperfection.


I work with high-performance owner-led businesses to enhance their growth, profitability, cash flow and business value.

If you’d like to have a conversation about your business, culture, strategy or any business challenges or concerns, book a free 30-minute call with me here. I’d be delighted to talk with you.


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