Perfectionism, inconsistency, and leadership

Grayscale photo of two people walking in a gray fog.A few weeks ago, I wrote a LinkedIn post stating that perfectionism is a recipe for failure and disappointment.

Simply put, the more we strive for perfection in any field, especially interpersonal endeavors such as leadership and management, the more likely we are to fail and to feel like a failure. Leadership and management are inherently foggy gray areas, filled with uncertainty, emotion, and subjective choices.

In the comments on that post, someone asked about inconsistency as a mark of imperfection, suggesting that inconsistent behavior in a manager could be considered imperfect.

It’s an interesting question, though it doesn’t respond to the point about the futility of perfection. That said, let’s think about the value of consistency in leadership, starting with whether or not it even is a value.

Certainly we don’t want to be managing our people erratically. And we want to be aware of bias and favoritism, and how they can sneak into our actions as leaders.

On the other hand, as I said above, leadership and management are gray areas, and that means there will inevitabely be inconsistency from one person and situation to another. In fact, that’s completely appropriate; we should not manage every person in the same way, because each person is different and each situation is different.

With that in mind: if the manager’s behavior is inconsistent to a degree that it’s impacting their ability to do their job (manage their people effectively), then that’s a failure of the manager’s supervisor to manage the manager’s performance.

But if it’s inconsistent in the sense that it’s adaptive to different situations or simply part of the (within reason) normal fluctuations of a human being’s state in any given moment, then there’s no problem.

And thus we come back around to the question of perfectionism and the reality that leadership is a highly imperfect  and subjective endeavor.

Which we can get better at; we can develop our skills as managers and leaders, and we can support our people in developing theirs.

Want to talk about how? Contact me and we’ll set a time to see if I can help!