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The perfectionist leadership trait is neither a curse nor a blessing. It can become a curse if it degenerates into derailing perfectionism. However, mature perfectionist leaders can be agreeable, effective, and successful. Leadership coaching can help leaders successfully navigate the pitfalls of perfectionism.

In our daily lives, we tend to view perfectionism as something negative; a stigma reserved for derailing behaviors that lead to self-destruction and woe.

In the context of leadership coaching, we tend to be more objective and realistic about perfectionism, recognizing it as a legitimate trait that carries advantages and drawbacks like any other.

Leadership styles are complex and multifaceted. No leader is a pure perfectionist, driver, or arbitrator. Based on the predominance of tendencies and traits, we can label some possessors of a distinct perfectionist trait.

In leadership, the perfectionist trait is not always negative. 

Leadership coaching may label leadership traits to create a system that makes sense of the multitude of tendencies, abilities, and proclivities leaders exhibit. Executive coaches understand, however, that every individual is unique, and they should never pigeonhole leaders based on how they’re perceived.

The Perfectionist Leadership Trait

Like drivers and arbitrators, perfectionists fall into the category of “gut leaders.” Unlike the first two, however, perfectionists have underdeveloped gut leadership skills. Drivers possess overdeveloped gut characteristics. Arbitrators may not be aware of their gut proclivities at all.

Perfectionist Leadership Strengths

Perfectionist leaders grow wiser as they mature. Mature perfectionists are some of the best leaders as they understand when something is good enough to fulfill a purpose. They know when to end their work on a project before the returns diminish.

Mature perfectionist leaders are great planners and can build great quality-oriented organizational cultures. Focused on perfecting themselves and those around them, mature perfectionists have a deep sense of right and wrong and observe strict standards of ethics. Such leaders are reliable and a pleasure to coach from the perspective of executive coaching experts.

How do you know if you are a mature perfectionist whose tendencies, proclivities, and leadership behaviors are constructive?

  • You don’t go crazy if you can’t achieve 100% of the goals you’ve set. You know everything above 75% is a win
  • You know where your priorities are.
  • You’re fair, objective, and reliable.
  • Your goals are realistic and attainable.
  • The faults and shortcomings of others don’t anger you.
  • You are content with your efforts even if your outcomes are less than ideal.
  • You observe high ethical standards.
  • You don’t fear making mistakes.

Perfectionist Leadership Weaknesses

The greatest weakness of all perfectionists is their low tolerance for flaws and careless attitudes. Those around them may stir anger in them to the point that they lash out, compromising their standings, authority, and statuses as sources of inspiration.

Derailing perfectionism is a significant handicap for leaders. 

Derailing perfectionists allow the flaws of their environments to consume them. They grow so preoccupied with the imperfections of others they fail to see their own shortcomings.

Your perfectionism is detrimental if:

  • The words should and must guide your actions.
  • You fail to achieve perfect outcomes, resulting in guilt and anxiety.
  • You have an irresistible urge to be excellent and everything.
  • Others’ imperfections bother you and you seek to get others to change.
  • You dread making mistakes and your fear of failure paralyzes you.
  • You are rigid and impersonal.

As I point out in my leadership coaching books, business coaching can help you devise a development path that helps you acquire the mature traits of an activist, namely the urge to create something that pleases others while staying extroverted and positive.

If you are a perfectionist leader, you may believe the onus for changing the world is solely on you. Such a false sense of responsibility can be debilitating. The answer to steer clear of the pitfalls of leadership perfectionism is leadership coaching. A coach can help you suppress the destructive urges of perfectionism while fostering those that make you better and stronger.

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