Not Perfect…Just Human
Because I am a constant learner, I’ve had to overcome a dynamic I encounter often: learning in front of others, and the occasional embarrassment that comes with that.
Several executives I’ve worked with and coached have shared similar challenges because—when you operate at the top of an organization—you are often viewed as if you are super-human and should lead perfectly. Well, there’s no such thing as perfect when it comes to leadership…quite the opposite, in fact.
One of my own, more memorable lessons was learned in front of another person, someone who held great power to give me something I really wanted. It was a cool job opportunity with a company ranked #1 in its industry. I presented myself in the interview as if I were perfect…ha! This was back when I thought perfection was a good thing. This company, though, was clearly smarter than me. They were looking to weed out perfectionistic people, and I landed myself straight into their candidate junk pile.
Because I wanted that job so badly, my learning was deep – to the point that I have referred to that experience literally hundreds of times. I wasn’t actually told why I wasn’t selected. So, my perfectionist tendencies continued a few more years during which I re-learned – and in front of many people – how perfection doesn’t serve. Eventually, that “public learning” made a difference.
Decades later, and I call myself a reformed perfectionist; I don’t need to be perfect (for others or for myself). I realize there is great value in others witnessing my humanness: I embrace the notion that being human means I live in both constant error and glory, and in front of others. They can see things that I either don’t see or am not ready to acknowledge.
It is clear to me that my growth as a leader depends on staying aware, open, and receptive. The people in my life continuously help me in my leadership journey which includes infinite learning and growth.
This Week: Ask yourself where you might be hesitant, or feel exposed, in trying out new things in front of others. Embrace those as opportunities to Expand Your Influence by showing your humanness. If you tend towards perfectionism as I have, ask yourself: “In what areas of my life do I feel the need to be perfect, and what would be at risk if I were not?”
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