Leaders Aren’t Perfect


As hard as this may be to believe, even though people will tell you that they don’t expect you to be perfect as a leader, they, in fact, do.  (If not perfect, then pretty darned close to it!)

Think back to your first supervisor of any kind.  Did that person lead perfectly?  Or, conversely, did you perhaps experience someone who did things “incorrectly” occasionally?  Let’s be clear.  That doesn’t mean that s/he didn’t do many great things, just that every once in a while, s/he made a “mistake.”

Like it or not, as a leader, we are being held to a higher set of expectations than perhaps we were held to in a non-leader position.  Most of our behaviors and decisions are being evaluated (formally and informally) more than ever before.

One of the lessons I’ve learned is that regardless of this higher level of expectation, as a leader you must risk making even more mistakes in order to lead others towards results and higher levels of performance.  You don’t improve as an individual or group without testing the limits, and as a leader it’s your job to test the limits.

In order to create a place where you can withstand some scrutiny yet still take risks, people that you work with must understand:

  • Why you’re/they’re doing things, and
  • You/they need to be able to discuss mistakes that have been made, what was learned from making them, and how the mistakes will be mitigated in the future.

Piece of cake, right?

As a leader, what other suggestions do you have for “balancing” taking risks with this higher standard of expectations?

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Kris Krueger, PhD is an Associate for a global strategy & technology consulting firm
She works with clients to transform their organization and deliver results

Email | LinkedIn | Blog

Image Courtesy ABC. Copyright 2008

2 responses to “Leaders Aren’t Perfect

  1. Taking risks is part of living and leading….if we never stretched ourselves to challenge ourselves we would not be leading. Is it braver to lead from the hill over looking the battle or be on the front lines where mistakes and successes are directly correlated to risk.


  2. Leadership is a human performance driven endeavor for both the leader and the led. Everytime a leader influences a group, team or individual in accomplishing a goal or a task, there is always risk involved. The greater risk is doing nothing to move your organization forward. Mistakes are the building blocks for more effective decisions and growth.

    When taking a look at balancing risks with higher expectations and accountability, it really depends heavily on how the level above you trusts in your leadership abilities. If you are trusted by your boss to unleash the talent in your sphere of influence then mistakes will be tolerated.

    When you become a new leader make sure you have a candid conversation with your boss to gauge that level of empowerment and then through your successes greater trust and freedom will be the reward.


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