Why Great Leaders Aren’t Obsessed With Perfectionism


Life as a recruiter can be very enlightening.

Especially when it comes to seeing what really keeps people happy at work and analysing job satisfaction in others.

You’d think that most people that lacked job satisfaction would be those who were less capable – perhaps those just starting out in their careers, people who lacked certain skills or individuals who were less talented than the competition.

Ironically, often the opposite is often true.

We all know examples of people who excel in their field but who continuously seem under stress and frustration. Individuals who should be enjoying their achievements but who constantly seem to be miserable and unhappy.

And the number one reason for this strange behaviour?

The one trait that will never allow you to be content.


Trying to be perfect every single time eventually results in breakdown. In fact, in ten years as a recruiter I can say with confidence that the best leaders I have ever worked with understand the important difference between aiming for perfection and being obsessed with it.

Here are some reasons why great leaders aren’t obsessed with perfectionism.

It’s rare

Perfectionism is when nothing could have gone better.

Just think about that for a second.

NOTHING could go better. It’s not possible to be even 1% faster. Or 1% better. Or 1% more efficient.

That’s pretty difficult to do, and in the few instances perfectionism is achieved its a rare thing to happen. Even mother nature herself often requires endless iterations – successes followed by failures – before she gets the magic formula just right.

Great leaders understand what the real world is about. They realise that consistency day-in-day-out is usually more important than attempting one-off brilliance. Whatsmore, they also realise that often perfection is a subjective illusion – what might be “perfect” to one person could be something very different to someone else. Rather than trying to be perfect for everyone, they focus on doing the best job possible and learning from it.

It’s a much better formula for progression.

Great leaders understand reality.

It can repel others

Ever worked with someone who always picked up on the most minor faults – even though you did everything else correctly? Ever known someone who was almost impossible to please? Or someone who was a micro-manager that insisted everything was double-checked by them before approval?

Even with the best intentions, such an attitude can be the fastest way to alienate others.

Great leaders understand that although it’s essential to have high standards, being too obsessed on doing a perfect job can quickly repel others. Everyone in a team has different strengths and therefore it’s essential to have flexibility when having expectations of others. If others in the team believe that only perfect is good enough for you, it can lead to motivation and resentment.

Everyone wants to perform as best as possible. But in order to raise the standards, its better to do so through encouragement and coaching rather than purely focussing on having to be perfect all the time.

Great leader have flexibility.

It’s energy zapping!

Success and enjoyment are closely linked.

Whether it’s a number one athlete, the best worker or the top performing student, the key to super achievement is to truly love what you do. That’s why those who are lucky enough to find their true passion in life tend to succeed almost naturally – they can perform at the highest level for hours on end since they don’t see their activity as “work” but more like fun.

In fact the best people I have ever worked with are usually more focused on the work they do rather than the resulting money, recognition and future career opportunities.

But perfectionism can often be the enemy of enjoyment.

Great leaders understand that striving for perfection time after time can increase stress and pressure. Rather than doing a job because of a genuine passion, things can become too focussed on results and pleasing others. Rather than wasting energy on pursuing perfection, they empower others to express themselves, do their best and have fun.

Which ironically results in improved performance anyway.

Great leaders use their energy wisely.


In the ever connected world we live in, it’s easy to become obsessed with being perfect.

The perfect job. The perfect family. The perfect selfie.

Great leaders understand that obsessing about perfectionism rarely achieves much other than increasing stress and frustration. Sure, it’s good to aim high, but the main thing is to try your best, have fun and learn how you can improve next time around.

Are you obsessed with perfectionism?