If You’re a Perfect Leader, You’re Not

borderline WorldTeams, groups, organizations, churches, clubs, families, homeschooling groups, etc, don’t need perfect leaders. They need real, human, vulnerable ones. They need leaders who have faults and talk openly about them. Faults, after all, are part of our inherent humanness.

If you tell me you don’t have any real faults or flaws I’m telling you that you’re either entirely delusional or extremely dishonest with yourself and/or others. Or both. Aren’t many other options.

Stop chuckling. That can actually end up really, really, really badly for all involved. Don’t believe me? Well, there’s always jokers like this popping up all over the place. And that’s just in one tiny little snippet of the religious world that I happen to be a bit more familiar with than others.

But it happens all over the place.

There are few things more frustrating than being on a team with someone who perceives themselves to be flawless, or at least darn close to it. You know they’re not, yet somehow, on some weird level, you find yourself feeling somehow compelled to try to be as well. The problem is that you can’t be that perfect person. You don’t even really want the pressure of being that person.

But they (make you think they) are perfect, and they’re where (you think) you want to end up. So you figure that that’s got to be the way to do it. Cover those faults. Don’t let ’em see you sweat. I mean, how can you expect them to respect and follow you if they see you make mistakes, after all? [for those of you less-versed in the classical language of smartassese, that’s what that was.] If you’re the boss, you’re supposed to have all the answers, right? Right?

When was the last time you openly discussed a shortcoming you have with…well…anyone?

Those on your team? In your group or department at work? Within your organization? With your — gasp — boss?

If you’re straining to remember the last time, it’s been far too long.

I’ve had occasion over the past few months to speak with my boss about a particular shortcoming of mine on a number of occasions. I’ll admit that I was terrified the first time I walked into his office to bring it up for the first time.

You see, with this weakness, as with many, I generally have played it pretty close to the vest. I mean, it’s not like we’re all running around with huge placards tied around our necks listing what we perceive to be our greatest faults. (Although now that I’m thinking about it, that could be a fascinating sociological and psychological experiment on a number of levels.)

They’re hard to talk about. You don’t wake up dying to talk about that sort of stuff.

But what’s happened is that there’s been an atmosphere created on our exec team where it’s OK to share faults and talk about them openly. It’s OK to be vulnerable. We’re human, after all.

The only way that happens, though, is if leaders understand they’re not perfect, are vulnerable themselves, and intentionally make it safe enough for their teammates to do the same. It becomes safe for them to become more appropriately human. Then the office continues to inch closer to being a habitat for humans.


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