The Real Cost of Perfection in Leadership

"Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence."

Vince Lombardi

In the world of leadership, there's often a relentless push towards perfection. Whether it's societal pressures or internal expectations, many leaders feel the need to present themselves as flawless, hiding any imperfections. But have you ever paused to wonder what you might be missing in this endless chase? Embracing excellence, rather than striving for perfection, might just be the key to lasting success.


The Intangible Burden: Emotional Exhaustion

Do you remember the last time you felt mentally drained after striving for perfection in a project? The often-overlooked cost of being a perfectionist leader is the emotional toll. Emotions serve as the compass for many leaders, guiding decisions, reactions, and strategies. Yet, the quest for perfection can lead to overwhelming emotional exhaustion. This isn't just about feeling tired; it's about the diminishing returns on the emotional investment leaders make.

Consider: By recognising and addressing this, leaders can recharge their emotional energy, leading with clarity and renewed passion.

Stifled Creativity: Perfectionism's Paralysis

Innovation thrives in environments where risks, mistakes, and failures are seen as stepping-stones. Ironically, by insisting on perfection, leaders might be suppressing the brightest creative sparks within their organisations. Consider Apple's initial foray into mobile technology – it wasn’t perfect. But it was a start, a step that later revolutionised how we view smartphones.

Consider: By embracing excellence over perfection, leaders create spaces where creativity thrives, and innovation becomes the norm.

Team Dynamics: The Silent Erosion

Feeling the pressure from a leader to deliver a 'perfect' result is something many of us have experienced. Such pressure can erode team trust and dynamics, leading to a culture of fear and hesitation. Can you recall a time when you held back an idea, fearing it wasn’t 'perfect' enough?

Consider: By promoting excellence over perfection, leaders cultivate environments where every voice matters and collaboration takes centre stage.

The Decision Dilemma: Analysis Paralysis

How often have we overthought a decision, waiting for the 'perfect' moment or strategy? Too often, leaders fall into the trap of over-analysing, waiting for a flawless solution, thereby missing opportunities.

Consider: Embracing excellence allows for faster, more dynamic decision-making, ensuring leaders stay ahead of the curve, not behind it.

The Growth Stunt: The Limitations of Playing It Perfect

Leadership isn't static; it’s a dynamic journey of growth and evolution. Insisting on perfection at every step can ironically stunt a leader's growth. Think of it as trying to climb a mountain but hesitating at each step, searching for the 'perfect' foothold.

Consider: By prioritising learning and progress over perfection, leaders ensure they're continuously evolving, and always ready for the next challenge.


Recognising these challenges, how can leaders transition from perfection to excellence? Here's a start:

  • Regularly reflect and identify areas where perfectionism might be taking a toll.

  • Foster a culture of feedback and continuous learning.

  • Celebrate small victories and progress, not just 'perfect' outcomes.


The pursuit of perfection, while alluring, often comes at a price. But it's a price that leaders don't have to pay. By embracing excellence—authentic, genuine, impactful excellence—leaders not only elevate their leadership but also set a precedent for a culture where values, impact, and growth take centre stage. As leaders, we must ask ourselves, “Are we chasing unattainable perfection or aiming for sustainable excellence?”

For those interested in diving deeper into the nuances of leadership and the pursuit of excellence over perfection, I recommend reading or listening to a great book called, ‘Overcoming Perfectionism Anxiety and Indecision: A Brilliant but Imperfect Guide to Releasing Your Inner Achiever’ by Cross Border Books. Readers are taken on a comprehensive journey to embrace the benefits of learning from failures. The book offers tools, activities, and insights to challenge perfectionist tendencies. Through practical guidance, it empowers readers to shift their mindset, challenge their inner critic, and find genuine happiness in embracing imperfection.

Have a great week!

Until next time,


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