Striving For Progress Not Perfection

When we look back on our lives especially the time we have spent leading we can do two things:

  1. Dwell negatively on our failures, things that didn’t go according to plan and regrets.
  2. Reflect back on those times and think about the lessons we learnt as a result. 

This article is a reflection on what I have learnt in regards to perfectionism.

Past limiting beliefs:

  • I have needed to strive for perfectionism in order to prove myself to others.
  • Spending more hours working or at work will ensure I am always ‘on top’ of things.
  • If I am aiming for perfectionism, this will impact positively on my team and increase their motivation and productivity.
  • If I don’t model perfectionism, I will lose credibility and trust with my team.
  • I will increase my knowledge and understanding of running an organisation by aiming for perfectionism.
  • People won’t judge or analyse my performance as a leader if I don’t make mistakes and fail.

Reading over this list is both confronting and purposeful. In one respect it’s a challenge to acknowledge that these past limiting beliefs have guided me on my quest to do everything ‘just right’ as a leader however they have also taught me a great deal! 

After a number of internal and external challenges, I came to the hard cold realisation that things needed to change and I needed to break this pattern of behaviour of trying to be a perfectionist!

What I’ve learnt by reading, researching and talking to others:

  • Perfectionism is a myth.
  • Perfectionism is about pleasing, performing, proving, perfecting.
  • Perfectionism is an unsustainable behaviour which is often the cause of major health issues including depression, anxiety and burnout!
  • As leaders, we need to continually look for indicators around setting the bar too high for ourselves.
  • We can still strive for excellence in a healthy way without being a perfectionist.
  • Modelling perfectionism has an incredibly negative impact on a team.
  • Exhaustion, business and productivity are not signs of effective leadership. No one is impressed by these qualities. 
  • As leaders, we need to invest time in attending to fears and feelings around the likes of perfectionism or an unreasonable amount of time managing ineffective and unproductive behaviour.
  • Research states that perfectionism impedes achievement. 
  • Effective leaders encourage teams to discuss perfectionism before it has the ability to impact negatively on the culture of a group or organisation.


Leave a Reply