Perfection is Highly Overrated. How About Just Being You?


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Leadership isn’t easy, but there are a lot of people who can tell you how it’s done! You can find about 69,000 of them on Read a few, and soon you will be ready for the fitting of your halo and wings.

Last year I answered a question about Leadership on I have a special place in my heart for this website. The questions that people ask and answer there can range from tough to touching. The question I picked was, ‘What are the top 10 interpersonal skills found in great leaders?’ It was irresistible because I’ve met a lot of people who seem to believe that a team is only as good as its leader, and that is just not so!

Here’s my ‘Top 10’:

  1. They are team players.
  2. They are coherent (neither rigid not diffuse) in all their interactions with others.
  3. Depending on what they are leading, they are either highly inspirational, in which case people are drawn to follow them and their vision, or they are excellent at shepherding people toward the goal. Occasionally you find people who are good at both.
  4. They take initiative, especially in innovation companies – they seize the moment, and go for the opportunity.
  5. They clearly get that other people have a point of view that may not be an exact mirror of theirs. (They might not like it, but they definitely get it.)
  6. They aren’t consumed by greed. Their ambition and desire to win extends to their team, organization, stakeholders, and especially their customers.
  7. They aren’t know-it-alls, even though they are generally smart.
  8. They know how to be able depend on other people – their trust is highly desired and valued.
  9. They respect all living things. (That includes ‘silicon-based life forms’ – the technology that runs the company.)
  10. They openly express their faith in their team, that together they can achieve the vision.

After I posted it, I had to ask myself if I was only feeding into the perfection myth, but they checked out OK, especially #7 & #8.

Leaders need to acknowledge their imperfections, and that is actually the perfect team’s scenario. Every thing you do not do well calls for someone on your team who does do it well, and who loves having the opportunity. This gives the team, as an entity in and of itself, a much greater chance of being perfect than a ‘perfect’ leader ever could, or should.

No, leadership is not a formula, or a style, or a canon. Neither can it be adequately described as a series of traits or bits and pieces of experience. Leadership is intertwined with situational context, and thus leadership is a team sport. In the end, all that matters is that, collectively, your team is pulling together to achieve its mission.

There is a way to describe what any team needs, in terms of the people who are attracted to fill those needs. Each has a Role. Not a ‘role’ – like a job title or a set of responsibilities – but Role in the language of Teamability™: the manner or mode in which a given person seeks to make a meaningful contributions to meet team needs.

When you understand that you cannot do all of these things well, you may feel angry, or cheated, or sad in your imperfection. Or, you may suddenly realize that your moments of greatest joy and fulfillment have come when you were entirely immersed in contributions that were aligned with Your Role – and that in those moments, you were grateful for the others on your team who were also experiencing joy in performing their own ‘life’s mission.’ When people and teams are functioning this way, they generate tremendous positive synergy and performance, producing real business value for an organization.

Dr. Janice Presser
Dr. Janice Presser is a behavioral scientist, CEO of The Gabriel Institute, thought leader in talent science, author of six books on teams, and architect of Teamability® , the completely new 'technology of teaming'. Launched in 2012, the technology caps a quarter-century of behavioral science R&D, including nine years of software development. Engineered to identify and organize the foundational elements of team activity and team management, Teamability produces true analytics of team chemistry, and delives practical, repeatable business benefits.


  1. …is essential for optimal performance of any relationship, group, or enterprise. Teamability has helped me identify both my strengths and challenges as a contributor. This profile represents an extremely valuable set of behavioral insights, and I would encourage any organization that is serious about improvement, irrespective of size or industry, to learn more about it.

  2. Great list of interpersonal skills and clarity around the roles needed in organizations and within teams.

    The top 10 list is definitely one of the most comprehensive that I’ve encountered as it hits all the key touchstones.

    The best CEOs and executives including a police chief and a deputy chief I’ve worked for have had some variation in style but would score high on your top 10 list in all areas bar none. In fact that’s what made them the leaders they were in complex organizations and situations.

    The common thread these best CEOs had that went beyond their ability to set out and engage their teams in a compelling vision was their focus on the key strategic priorities that would move the organizations forward. They had a stakeholder view of the organizations that looked at things internally from the outside in.

    If I wanted to add one thing to your list that’s there if you read into this list broadly is the issue of conflict and how the best executives encourage it and don’t get to cheap closure by avoiding strong divergences in views. Of course you need to conclude on things but far too often I have seen unresolved conflicts come back to bite them in the rear as the louder voices drown out those who see things differently and only are later proven right when things work out badly.

    Ensuring teams at the executive level have people that can play all the needed roles as well as ensure their teams below them have the needed roles covered is critical. Your role list is again one of the best I’ve encountered.

  3. It is in there, Greg, but you can’t emphasize it enough, as you said: “don’t get to cheap closure by avoiding strong divergences in views.” That’s the purpose of making sure all the Roles that the team needs are filled by people who really want to contribute to the achievement of the mission. A team of clones just can’t get to the quality level most organizations require.

    Thanks for weighing in!


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