Imperfect Leadership

July 21, 2016

Often in leadership circles, we place those who succeed on pedestals and we talk about, analyze and study what they did right. We consider their thoughts and actions. We admire their decisions, choices and opportunities. We learn from them and they challenge us.

Do you ever notice that some of these people never fail? They seem to never make a mistake or if they do, we only hear about it because we’re reading about their success overcoming the failure or learning from it.

Are you ever tempted to compare yourself? “I could never do such and such,” or, “I would love to have the chance to do that with his resources and her connections.” Do you find yourself comparing often?

one black sheep in the herd of whites

Comparison is a deadly trap. It can keep us from believing we are qualified or capable. It can cause us to flinch, hesitate or stop doing what we know we should.

However, when it comes to leading from who you are — let’s call that character-based leadership — comparison wastes energy. Character-based leaders are imperfect. My character is not perfect. If your character is perfect, you can stop reading here.

Aim for perfection, and hit discouragement. Perfection seldom happens and never for long. You might choke, trying too hard. Or you might freeze, engulfed by fear. Aim for perfection and bank on deflation, dissatisfaction, broken relationships, frustration and worse.

Leading from who we are means we must lead with and through imperfection. You can’t pretend to be someone else and be a character-based leader. You manipulate when you act a particular way to get someone to do what you want. Anyone inspired by a wrong image of the real you will disconnect when they discover the real you.

Our imperfections may discourage us but we must refuse to let them take us out of the game. Refuse to listen to that little voice in your head that tells you “Don’t screw up,” or “You always blow it in this area,” or “Remember the last time you tried this.”

Genuine leadership is leadership through imperfection.

When we face our imperfection and act anyway, we show genuine character-based leadership. Work on your shortcomings but never let them keep you from taking action. Screw up in gear and avoid the mistake of inaction. Imperfect, genuine leaders encourage and mobilize others to act. Their actions make persistence and success believable, reachable. Stop listening to any voice claiming you can’t do something. Simply decide to be the change you want to see in the world. Then act. The worst thing that can happen is you might fail. Welcome to the club. And you’ll be who you are.

I’ll take an imperfect, transparent, giving, willing leader over a perfect, aloof, self-serving leader any day. Wouldn’t you?

This post first appeared on Smartbrief On Leadership.

Photo © fotografaw