“Have no fear of perfection—you’ll never reach it.”
According to Wikipedia, perfection is broadly a state of completeness and flawlessness. It is an ideal that we all strive to achieve. But is it imperative to be perfect in all that we do? The below people are undoubtedly the epitome of perfection, and they illustrate its follies.
1. Steve Jobs
Steve Job’s perfectionism was legendary. However, did you know that his obsessiveness with perfection caused him to be unable to purchase a couch for 10 years? In the book Steve Jobs, his wife Lauren Powell is quoted as saying,
“We spoke about furniture in theory for eight years. We spent a lot of time asking ourselves, ‘What is the purpose of a sofa?'”
Be on guard, and do not hide your indecision behind the mask of perfectionism. Instead of basing your decisions on subjective ideals of perfection, it is good to be objective when making decisions.
2. Lance Armstrong
Now disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong admitted to doping as a means to live up to the perfect story—a hero who overcame a deadly diagnosis of testicular cancer, and went on to repeatedly win the Tour de France, while having a happy marriage and family. Perfectionism became his worst enemy.Advertising
Perfectionists have an intrinsic fear of failure. They wish to be a success at everything they do. Sometimes, to achieve that success, they pay a very steep price. Lance paid with his integrity to maintain his ideal of the perfect story. However, wouldn’t the world still consider him an ultra-human champion if he simply competed after his cancer recovery?
Something that a perfectionist would perceive as failure would be a moment of triumph for others. In general, one should be more accepting of their failures and think of them as a necessary part of the process. It is fine to make mistakes. In time, they become the stepping stones to success.
At 73, Michelangelo was working intensely on the sculpture, Florentine Pieta—the sculpture that many historians regard as his most mature and provocative work. He put in an enormous amount of personal effort and energy to make it the perfect sculpture, until one day, he took a sledge hammer, and chopped off the sculpture’s arms and legs. Why would he break apart one of his greatest works that was born after a decade of brutal labor and emotional pain ? Well, Michelangelo, a perfectionist, was angered by the flaws in the marble.
Perfectionists, tend to have excessively high performance standards of doing things. They invest all their energy to ensure that all the i’s are dotted and all the t’s crossed. However, many times this obsessive attention to detail, that manifests from the now or never attitude, takes up our valuable reserves of time and energy. This can lead them to abandon projects mid-way, and thus lose sight of the goals that matter the most.
4. Emma Watson
Did you know that Emma Watson cited perfectionism as the reason for taking a break from school?
In today’s world, it is difficult to narrow down our focus on the one most important thing. At work, it is expected of you to have competencies in multiple areas. At home, there are a lot of things that are fighting for our attention. Being a perfectionist does not allow multi-tasking. Instead it narrows down our choices and forces us to focus on one thing at a time, which, unlike Emma Watson, might not be a luxury everyone can enjoy.
5. Sheldon Cooper
The Ingenious Jim Parsons, portraying the character in Big Bang Theory is a classic example of a perfectionist personality that is not just obsessive and dogmatic, but also rigid and inflexible. He always wants to be in control of things, to the point of choosing and reserving his favorite seat in the apartment.
“In the winter that seat is close enough to the radiator to remain warm, and yet not so close as to cause perspiration. In the summer, it’s directly in the path of a cross-breeze created by opening windows there and there. It faces the television at an angle that is neither direct, thus discouraging conversation, nor so far wide as to create a parallax distortion. I could go on, but I think I’ve made my point.”
Perfectionists wish to have the perfect order in the universe, and to maintain the order, they become rigid and inflexible. Some go to the extent of controlling others, or if that does not work, they isolate themselves from society.
6. James Cameron
On re-releasing Titanic in 3D, James Cameroon, fixed the star constellation in the final scene of Titanic. In an interview he explains,
“Oh, there is one shot that I fixed. It’s because Neil deGrasse Tyson, who is one of the U.S.’ leading astronomers, sent me quite a snarky email saying that, at that time of year, in that position in the Atlantic in 1912, when Rose is lying on the piece of driftwood and staring up at the stars, that is not the star field she would have seen, and with my reputation as a perfectionist, I should have known that and I should have put the right star field in. So I said, ‘All right, you son of a bitch, send me the right stars for the exact time, 4:20 a.m. on April 15, 1912, and I’ll put it in the movie.’ So that’s the one shot that has been changed.”
Perfectionists often have trouble with focusing on priorities. They put in time and energy into things that are irrelevant, or of secondary importance. This in turn forces the projects to go in delays or excessive expenditure, where none might be required.Advertising
7. Bob Sullivan
When Bob, an investigative journalist, more than a decade ago was teaching at the University of Missouri Journalism School, asked his students, “What was the most important task of a newspaper editor?” His students shouted many answers such as “To break new stories,” “To be Fair,” etc. However, Bob said that none of that is true. What really matters for the Newspaper editor is the promise that the paper will be there every morning at 6 a.m when people wake up. He theorized:
“The most insidious of all human imperfections often lies hidden in the weeds most of our lives. But it rears its ugly head and screeches for our attention in an environment of intense deadlines. It kills all learning, and dooms us to a life of plateaus: the desire to be perfect”
Being a perfectionist forces us to conform with societal norms and expectations. A perfectionist ensures that there are no surprises—good or bad. The basic ingredients that make life interesting are weeded out leaving the perfectionist in a dull and boring world where each day is the same as the next one.
8. Russel Crowe
Russel’s perfectionist attitude has provided us with some thought provoking performances. However, perfectionism becomes a hurdle for him when dealing with criticism. When Adam Lambert criticized the director of Les Miserables for not finding better singers for the production, Russel Crowe, one of the leading actors in the movie, took the criticism personally. He recorded a studio version of his showpiece song in Les Miserables and posted it online, showcasing his singing talents. He blamed the poor vocals in the movie on the director, who insisted on shooting raw and real vocals, than the pre-recorded studio versions.
Perfectionist often view criticism as a personal attack and in turn become defensive when receiving feedback for their work. They are unable to take negative feedback in the right perspective. As a result, they bubble-wrap their weakness, instead of taking positive actions to deal with it in a healthy manner.
9. Sherlock Holmes
The famous detective’s perfectionist aspect is that he must have the most intriguingly complex case, to challenge his incredibly genius mind. However, when there is nothing to challenge him, he gets depressed and indulges in substance abuse.Advertising
“My mind rebels at stagnation. Give me problems, give me work, give me the most abstruse cryptogram or the most intricate analysis, and I am in my own proper atmosphere. I can dispense then with artificial stimulants. But I abhor the dull routine of existence. I crave for mental exaltation. That is why I have chosen my own particular profession, or rather created it, for I am the only one in the world.”
Perfectionism can make one depressed, frustrated and angry, especially if it does not see to bear the desired results. Most of the times being a perfectionist involves being anxious, and fearful of the imperfect world, which in turn leads to panic and anger that steadily turns into depression. It is a vicious circle that is not easy to get out of.
10. David Foster Wallace
David Foster Wallace, an award-winning American novelist, short story writer, essayist and professor, struggled with perfectionism.
“Perfectionism is very dangerous. Because of course if your fidelity to perfectionism is too high, you never do anything. Because doing anything results in…it’s actually kind of tragic because you sacrifice how gorgeous and perfect it is in your head for what it really is”
Perfectionists do tend to demonstrate the five dark Personality traits: Argumentative, Impersonal, Narcissistic, Insensitive and a Fear of Failure. Beware of these traits. In the end, the big question is would you embrace these traits as an acceptable cost of being successful? I sure would love to hear from you about that in the comments below.
Last Updated on May 22, 2020
What Makes a Good Leader: 9 Critical Leadership Qualities
The word “leader” makes you think of people in charge, high-ranking people: your boss, politicians, presidents, CEOs…
But leadership really isn’t about a particular position or a person’s seniority. Just because someone has worked for many years doesn’t mean s/he has gained the qualities and skills to lead a team.
Getting promoted to a managerial position doesn’t automatically turn you into a leader either. CEOs and other high-ranking officials don’t always have great leadership skills.
So what makes a good leader? What are the characteristics of a leader?
Good leadership is about acquiring and honing specific skills. Leadership skills enable you to be a role model for a team in any environment. With great leadership qualities, successful leaders come in all shapes and sizes: in the home, at school, or in the workplace.
The following are some of the many characteristics great leaders exhibit.
1. A Positive Attitude
Great leaders know that they won’t have a happy and motivated team unless they themselves exhibit a positive attitude. This can be done by remaining positive when things go wrong and by creating a relaxed and happy atmosphere in the workplace.
Even some simple things like providing snacks or organizing a team Happy Hour can make a world of difference. An added perk is that team members are likely to work harder and do overtime when needed if they’re happy and appreciated.
Even in the worst situations, such as experiencing low team morale or team members having made a big mistake at work, a great leader stays positive and figures out ways to keep the team motivated to solve the problems.
Walt Disney had his share of hardships and challenges, and like any great leader, he managed to stay positive and find new opportunities. In 1928, Disney found that his film producer, Charles Mintz, wanted to reduce his payments for the Oswald series. Mintz threatened to cut ties entirely if Disney didn’t accept his terms, and Disney chose to part ways. But in leaving Oswald, Disney decided to create something new: the iconic Mickey Mouse.
The key is to break down huge challenges into smaller ones and find ways to tackle them one by one.
Think about the lessons you can learn from the mistake and jot them down because sometimes you win, and sometimes you learn.
All great leaders have to exhibit an air of confidence if they’re going to succeed. Please don’t confuse this with self-satisfaction and arrogance. You want people to look up to you for inspiration, not so they can punch you in the face.
Confidence is important because people will be looking to you on how to behave, particularly if things aren’t going 100% right. If you remain calm and poised, team members are far more likely to as well. As a result, morale and productivity will remain high, and the problem will be solved more quickly.
If you panic and give up, they will know immediately and things will simply go downhill from there.
Elon Musk is a great example of a leader with confidence. He truly believes that Tesla will be successful, which he has shown many times through his actions. He converted 532,000 stock options at $6.63 each, their value on Dec. 4, 2009, before Tesla went public. It was a hefty bargain considering Tesla’s stock price stood at around $195 per share at that time. He doesn’t apologize for his beliefs and has drawn fire from just about everyone for his political actions.
You can’t instantly become a very confident person, but all the small things you do every day will gradually make you more confident:
- List 5 things you like about yourself every day (something different every day), and you’ll appreciate yourself more.
- Work on your strengths and do your best to enhance them.
3. A Sense of Humor
It’s imperative for any kind of leader to have a sense of humor, particularly when things go wrong. And they will.
Your team members are going to be looking to you for how to react in a seemingly dire situation. It would probably be best if you weren’t stringing up a noose for yourself in the corner. You need to be able to laugh things off because if staff morale goes down, so will productivity.
Establish this environment prior to any kind of meltdown by encouraging humor and personal discussions in the workplace.
As a president, Barack Obama exuded confidence and calm during stressful situations. But he was also known for his “dad jokes,” his genuinely funny speeches at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, and appearing on Zack Galifianakis’s Between Two Ferns. Obama’s sense of humor made him grounded, realistic, and honest, which no doubt helped during some tense moments in the White House!
Learn to laugh at yourself. Confident people laugh about their own silly mistakes, and when you do this, others will also trust you more because you’re willing to share your experiences.
Be observant and learn from the jokes others make. You can also get a lot of inspiration from the internet.
4. Ability to Embrace Failure
No matter how hard you try to avoid it, failures will happen; that’s okay. You just need to know how to deal with them.
Great leaders take them in strides. They remain calm and logically think through the situation and utilize their resources. What they don’t do is fall apart and reveal to their team how worried they are, which leads to negative morale, fear, and binge-drinking under desks.
Great leaders do, in fact, lead, even when they’re faced with setbacks.
Henry Ford experienced a major setback after designing and improving the Ford Quadricycle. He founded the Detroit Automobile Company in 1899, but the resulting cars they produced did not live up to his standards and were too expensive. The company dissolved in 1901. Ford took this in stride and formed the Henry Ford Company. The sales were slow and the company had financial problems; it wasn’t until 1903 that the Ford Motor Company was successful and put the Ford on the map.
Get to the root cause of any problem so you can prevent it from happening again and learn from the mistake.
By asking “why” 5 times (or more) on why something happened, you can find out the key factor that caused the problem and can find the best solution to tackle the problem.
You’ll also learn how to prevent this from happening again in the future after finding out a problem’s root cause.
5. Careful Listening and Feedback
This is far more complex than it actually sounds. Good communication skills are essential for a great leader. You may very well understand the cave of crazy that is your brain, but that doesn’t mean that you can adequately take the ideas out of it and explain them to someone else.
The best leaders need to be able to communicate clearly with the people around them. They also need to be able to interpret other people properly and not take what they say personally.
The Dalai Lama, as a symbol of the unification of the state of Tibet, represents and practices Buddhist values. The Dalai Lama’s leadership is benevolent and aims toward truth and understanding, alongside the other Buddhist precepts. This is a great example for all leaders: if you want to give good directions to others, you have to get feedback from others to understand the situation properly.
Encourage communication between team members and establish an open door policy.
Practice not interrupting team members when they’re talking. Instead, summarize what they say and ask for feedback after you have talked about your ideas.
6. Knowing How and When to Delegate
No matter how much you might want to, you can’t actually do everything yourself. Even if you could, in a team environment that would be a terrible idea anyway.
Good leaders recognize that delegation does more than simply alleviate their own stress levels (although that’s obviously a nice perk). Delegating to others shows that you have confidence in their abilities, which subsequently results in higher morale in the workplace, as well as loyalty from your staff. They want to feel appreciated and trusted.
Although Steve Jobs was known for focusing in on the smallest of details, he knew how to delegate. By finding, cultivating, and trusting capable team members, Jobs was able to make Apple run smoothly, even when he had to be absent for extended periods of time.
To know when and how to delegate work to team members, you have to be very familiar with each of them:
- List out all of their strengths, weaknesses, and personalities.
- Talk with your team members more to know about their passion and interests.
Take a look at this guide and learn more about delegation: How to Delegate Work Effectively (The Definitive Guide for Leaders)
7. Growth Mindset
Any good leader knows how important it is to develop the skills of those around them. The best can recognize those skills early on. Not only will development make work easier as they improve and grow, it will also foster morale. In addition, they may develop some skills that you don’t possess that will be beneficial to the workplace.
Great leaders share their knowledge with the team and give them the opportunity to achieve. This is how leaders gain their respect and loyalty.
Pope Francis has been unusually popular with many Catholics and many non-Catholics. His position isn’t totally traditional, which is part of his appeal, but he also has admirable leadership skills. Pope Francis’s TED talk drew attention because he encouraged leaders to be humble and to demonstrate solidarity with others. This inclusive, kind, and respectful style of leadership is incredibly important for any situation.
It’s important to spend time talking with other team members individually to understand them.
Find out team members’ current challenges and try to give feedback and encouragement so they will grow and do better.
Great leaders know that when it comes to their company, work place or whatever situation they’re in, they need to take personal responsibility for failure. How can they expect employees to hold themselves accountable if they themselves don’t?
The best leaders don’t make excuses; they take the blame and then work out how to fix the problem as soon as possible. This proves that they’re trustworthy and possess integrity.
Howard Gillman is the chancellor of UC Irvine. You might have heard of how the university rescinded a bunch of acceptances, and then changed its mind, This past spring, an unusually high number of accepted students decided to matriculate; the school initially responded by rescinding offers over things like missed deadlines. But the college realized this was a mistake and reversed its decision. Gillman and the university accepted responsibility and decided to move past their earlier bad decision.
Always ask yourself what you can do better or what you should change. Take responsibility and think about what you can do better to prevent this from happening next time.
9. A Desire to Learn
It’s safe to say that all great leaders will have to enter unchartered waters at some point during their career. Because of this, they have to be able to trust their intuition and draw on past experiences to guide them.
Great leaders know that there’s always something to learn from everything they have experienced before. They are able to connect the present challenges with the lessons learned in the past to make decisions and take actions promptly.
You can either recall what you’ve learned from your memories or search your notes (ideally, a software that you can access anywhere with things well-organized).
Warren Buffett, one of the richest people in the world, has mostly made the right calls. But in dealing with huge amounts of money, Buffett has also made several multi-million (and sometimes multi-billion) dollar mistakes. He has stated that buying the company Berkshire Hathaway was his biggest mistake. From that poor choice, he realized that it was unwise to pursue “improvements” and “expansions” in the existing textile industry. Despite mistakes like this, Buffett has invested wisely, and it shows.
To effectively learn from the past, write down lessons you’ve learned from any mistakes you’ve made. Have all the lessons well organized, and when similar things happen again in future, take these lessons as references.
The Bottom Line
Leadership traits are learnable. If you practice consistently, you can be a great leader, too.
Make small changes to your habits when you work with your team, wherever that may be. Most of us aren’t presidents or CEOs, but we all work with other people, and our actions always impact others. This gives every person the chance to develop leadership skills and to stand out from the crowd.
More Tips on Leadership
- Leadership vs Management: Is One Better Than the Other?
- Why Leadership and Management Are Two Sides of a Coin
- 15 Best Leadership Books Every Leader Must Read To Achieve Success
Featured photo credit: Markus Spiske via unsplash.com
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