Jamie was a perfectionist CEO. No matter how much she achieved, or how much positive feedback she got, she ruthlessly focused her attention on what was less than perfect. Deep inside, she was terrified of failure, and often felt inadequate and filled with shame.
Amare (love-based) leaders value imperfection as part and parcel of the human condition. They apply the Japanese concept called Wabi-Sabi, which accepts and celebrates imperfection. Wabi-Sabi is about being authentic, acknowledging that nothing and no one is perfect, and using imperfections to connect more deeply with those we serve.
Paradoxically, you can still be highly ambitious and aim for perfection. The key is this: Give it all you got, even as you know imperfection is inevitable, and get your satisfaction by doing your very best.
As a leader, do you have perfectionism tendencies?
What or who triggers them?
What's your experience with being imperfect?
Here are six amare ways to be an imperfect leader.
1. Free the myth that fuels your perfectionism. Say out loud: "I am a perfectionist because __________." See what comes to mind. Try these too: "People expect it of me." "It earns me approval." "People will like me better." "Anything less is personal failure." Once identified, say, "I release that belief now."
2. Choose connection over perfection. Ask colleagues if they feel you expect them to be perfect and how it affects your relationship. Invite them to point out when you seem to expect perfection -- as long as you make it safe to do so.
3. Practice trusting others. Actively delegate tasks you are holding onto that don't make the best use of your skills or time. Notice if you resist, and delegate anyway. Set up regular updates so you stay in the loop without worrying or controlling.
4. Always be a beginner at something. Do an activity that's new to you -- gardening, Wordle, singing, etc. Notice your mindset. Notice that you expect imperfection. Notice how you learn from it. Store that "beginner" mindset!
5. Notice what imperfection makes possible. First ask yourself and list what perfectionism makes impossible. Then ask what being imperfect makes possible? Consider innovating, experimenting, delegating, and committing, to name a few.
6. Forgive yourself. List times this year when the need to be perfect overtook you and hardened your heart, closed your mind, or shut you down. Now take a deep breath and forgive yourself.
As a leader, consider fostering imperfection within your culture, not as an aspiration, but as an acceptance of the humanity in us all. Here is an Amare leadership manifesto that can help you make similar shifts in your life and leadership.