Guide to Self-Assessment and Strategies to Overcoming Perfectionism in Leadership
In today's environment, we are bombarded with messages about the importance and ease of improving any flaw. We have come to accept that we must strive for perfection in all aspects of our lives albeit the right laundry detergent for brighter clothes, the right face cream for younger skin or the right education for a successful career. Though out our lives, this concept has been re-enforced in the media, at work, in school and by our parents. Therefore, it is both common and natural for leaders to strive to overcome their human imperfections. In reality, no one gets pleasure from making mistakes or exposing their flaws. As a society we have come to accept the notion that 'anything worth doing is worth doing well' and if we can't do it extremely well we are lacking.
Overall there is nothing wrong in leaders striving for excellence. In fact achieving this goal can be quite rewarding (adaptive perfectionism). According to Smith (1990) the problem arises when a leader believes that reaching perfection is necessary for self-esteem, peace of mind and acceptance by others (maladaptive perfectionism).
Maladaptive perfectionism (MP) is addicting. The MP leader sets lofty/superhuman goals both for themselves and their followers but even when these goals are reached there is no feeling of satisfaction. The MP leader's empty feeling causes him/her to works harder, better and longer; setting goals at an ever increasing level of achievement. Like a hamster on a wheel the MP leader is constantly running to achieve the joy of success. They struggle with control issues, lack of intimacy and shared feelings, gaps in levels of emotional growth or recovery and communication.
The purpose of this book is: to provide leaders with the tools to identify if they are maladaptive perfectionists; to identify the causes of maladaptive perfectionism; and to discuss strategies to overcome maladaptive perfectionism.