What Leaders Are Not – Perfect

In case you didn’t know, leaders are all seeing and all knowing (errr, no they’re not)…

Photo by Vladyslav Dukhin on Pexels.com

The perceptionโ€ฆ

In today’s world, and I suspect the perception for quite some time, is that, leaders are supposed to be perfect. Well, that’s what the media appears to keep projecting anyway. Before the advent of TV, and the age of streaming content, leaders of all descriptions could hide behind the perfect photo and even the safety of the radio (until the age of the “shock jock”). Before these mediums, leaders were enshrined in the most wonderful painted portraits and statues. In ancient times, the most amazing sculptures, hieroglyphs and monuments were made as a tribute to a civilisation’s leaders (See my post: Rameses II – A Leader Among Leaders).

Leaders are supposed to be rational, logical, calm, socialable, wear the latest fashion with an awesome hairstyle and have great interpersonal skills. Leaders are also supposed to be visionary, strategic, values orientated, driven, bullet proof, earth shatteringly influential, not have a narcissistic bone in their bodies and so, dare I say it – perfect!!!

So who are the best leaders?

I have been fortunate in life to listen to, meet and also work with, some of the most astonishing leaders from around the world. What is even more amazing is that some of them have moved on in life and have decided to live in the same city as myself and embrace the lifestyle here.

The best leaders I know are not perfect. By this I mean they freely admit they are not all seeing and all knowing. They are: WYSIWYG. So they don’t mind dressing down and feeling “comfortable” or dressing up and shining brightly when they need to. They are extremely capable and have the ability to see what is over the next hill. However, that doesn’t mean they know what is coming at them day in and day out. They know many things, but not everything. So where I am getting to is this:

๐Ÿ˜Ž Leaders are, quite simply, human.

๐Ÿ˜Ž Because they are human, they make mistakes.

๐Ÿ˜Ž It’s what a leader does with the mistake, that makes all the difference.

Cynicism and leadership

There is certainly a level of cynicism out there regarding the capability of leaders from all walks of life. We are seeing across organsiations what is referred to as the cynism to change (CTC). It can be a real problem if employees no longer want to be a part of the leader’s change program. This is where transformational leadership (Ideas for Leaders, 2021) comes into play and can be used to address such a change in mood within an organisation.

At the political level, we are seeing an inherent distrust in the political leader (ABC, 2019). Just log on to any social media page when a leader is speaking live and see the emojis that come through ๐Ÿ˜ก๐Ÿ‘Ž๐Ÿคฌ๐Ÿ‘ฟ In a related twist, social trust between people has followed suit. However, most still believe that those in their neighbourhood would help them out if they needed it (ABC, 2019).

OMG! – Stop The Train

Photo by David Music on Pexels.com

I can certainly attest to my time as a leader over many years making mistakes that were both small and some that were like OMG, stop the train!

The thing with little mistakes is they are an irritation at best. If they are worth fixing, we fix the mistake and move on. If they aren’t worth fixing, we move on anyway. That being said, I can still remember my days as a junior public servant where the little mistakes were not tollerated. A severe tongue lashing was often the result or a threat or two regarding not making the same mistake again. You and I both no longer have the time to sweat the small stuff and we shouldn’t, but my suggestion is, if you do have the time, spend the 1% needed to make the corrections.

Under the Westminster conventions (which many politicians in the Western sphere now seem to completely ignore), you put your hand up, admit the mistake and resign. Once upon a time at a large local government, I had the responsibility for more things than I could poke a stick at. Making an error echoed around the organisation quite strongly. On one occassion, where a faux pas was made, I protected and encouraged my staff of that particular branch of the organisation to look for a way through the quagmire and then went to advise my director of the situation. I explained what had happened and said I accepted full responsibility. My director looked at me for a moment (this is the same person I used to call a dinosaur to his face). Then with almost a sigh, he said “for god’s sake Sean, stop falling on your sword.”

Trust and credibility and a different take on leadership

The one attribute a good leader must have above all else is the ability to build trust. Perfection is not required. In simple terms: say what you mean, deliver on what you have said and at all times, be genuine. Trust is a currency that will see you through the most demanding of ordeals. The other attributes a leader should have are up to you, as it is your call. Kally at MiddleMe has some further thoughts on the issue of trust in her post: 10 Ways to Lose Credibility as a Professional.

If you want to see what leadership isn’t, but strangely is, take a look at Apple’s Mythic Quest ๐Ÿ˜‚ (The Ringer: How โ€˜Mythic Questโ€™ Is Breaking the Sitcom Mold – 4 June 2021)

Watch Mystic Quest season 2 online
Poppy and Ion – Image credit: Apple TV+

Are you perfect as a leader? Perhaps you have an interesting tale to tell regarding being fallable!

References

WYSIWYG – What You See Is What You Get. I had forgotten about the wonderful Flip Wilson who had coined this phrase which was used by his character Geraldine Jones. Computing Engineers began designing programming in the 1970s so that the user (such as web designers and bloggers) could create documents and web pages without coding or markups. They called it WYSIWYG, inspired by the Geraldine Jones catch cry. Microsft Word and Excel are other examples of this application.

Rameses II – A Pharoah of Ancient Egypt, often considered the greatest of pharaohs.

ABC Australia, (2019). Partyโ€™s over: In a nation of cynics, weโ€™re flocking to the fringe. (online) Available at: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-09-20/in-a-nation-of-cynics-we-are-flocking-to-the-fringe/10281522 (Accessed 25 July 2021)

Ideas for Leaders, (2021). Resistence to Change: Overcoming Multilevel Cynicism. (online) Available at: https://www.ideasforleaders.com/ideas/resistance-to-change-overcoming-multilevel-cynicism (Accessed 24 July 2021)

MiddleMe, (2021). 10 Ways to Lose Credibility as a Professional. (online) Available at: https://middleme.net/2021/07/26/10-ways-to-lose-credibility-as-a-professional/ (Accessed 26 July, 2021)

Skills You Need, (2021). Interpersonal Skills. (online) Available at: https://www.skillsyouneed.com/interpersonal-skills.html (Accessed 24 July 2021)

24 Comments on “What Leaders Are Not – Perfect”

  1. ๐Ÿ’Ž – Diamond Hard – ๐Ÿ’Ž

    ๐Ÿ’Ž I Don’t Believe in “Leaders” EveryOne; a True Team Ethic has NO!!! “Leaders” except in Specific Situations, Hierarchy is a Myth and The Inverted Pyramid The Truth which (WITCH!!!) I Have Faith and Conviction in

    ๐Ÿ’Ž – Diamond Hard – ๐Ÿ’Ž

    …๐Ÿ’Ž๐Ÿ’Ž๐Ÿ’Ž…

    Liked by 2 people

      • ๐Ÿ’œ Good, Very Good; for Me Much is about Atlas and The Thinker…basically put like this SupaSoulBro; the Most Powerful ARE at The Point of The Inverted Pyramid Supporting The Garbage Collectors at The Wide Base On The Top…where The Fuck Would We Be if Sanitising Workers like Janitors Went on Strike; money doesn’t help in those, hopefully, non-existent circumstances

        …๐Ÿ’›๐Ÿ’š๐Ÿ’™…

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I think the concept of perfect leader is esoteric. But I find this quote more appropriate…”a leader is one who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way”. Thanks for a very beautiful and thought provoking article๐Ÿ˜Š๐Ÿ’

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your fine wisdom, KK. The leader’s path is never an easy one, but if they were to follow the quote you have provided here, the light will appear to those who follow such a leader on such a journey ๐Ÿ˜Š

      Liked by 1 person

  3. What irks me most is the ‘feigned’ apology: “I’m sorry you if I offended anyone.” Or worse, the feigned responsibility: “I take full responsibility; now leave me alone (so I can keep on doing what I want).”
    Leadership is hardly taught, even in “leadership” courses in universities for fear of offending someone who clearly cannot lead. Sad, but it is what it is.
    The world is getting hungrier for a real leader, and given a crisis will grasp One who will appear to lead… only to destruction. Jesus remains the Ultimate Model of Leadership. Follow Him. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Liked by 1 person

    • I hope you won’t take the next story I share with you the wrong way, CA. At the same organisation I mention in the post, I was holding a meeting with soemwhere between 80 – 100 employees. They were part of the outside crews, as we call them, and can be quite fiery. Anyway, I was briefing them on some key reforms and how we needed their involvement in the process. They had never had this experience before: i.e. management cares and you are going to have a say in your future. At one point, one of the scally wags yelled out “Who the bloody hell do you think you are, Jesus H Bloody Christ?” I thanked him for his comment and said no, but I certainly subscribe to his principles. No one knew what to say after that and basically said keep explaining what needed to happen. We then followed this up with a BBQ, which allowed them to have one on one conversations with me in a non threatening environment.

      Yes, the world does need some real leadership at the moment. We all know genuine leadership when we see it, however, as you suggest, there are elements that can get in the way of that. Thank you for your thought provoking comments as always!

      Liked by 1 person

      • What’s to take the wrong way? Jesus is the perfect model for any leader. I recall meeting with a board of our Home Owners Association, and one of the members used every other word to curse, GD, F…, S…, etc.
        I saw the women in our meeting squirming and finally asked him to please refrain from using foul language as it was unnecessary for the discussion. His response was, “Well, I just feel passionate about this stuff.” (The pool, the clubhouse, the grounds… he feels passionate about THAT?) But I smiled and replied, “Well, I am sure your mother was passionate about you, but doubt that she used that language when changing your diaper.” Everyone, even the curser, laughed.
        When we live by His principles, we will exhibit His grace, even to those who oppose us.

        Liked by 1 person

    • I really appreciate the awesome feedback, Rita. I keep tinkering away, learning as I go. Now I need to start experimenting with various plug ins – fingers crossed ๐Ÿ˜ฑ

      Like

  4. Very true! Leaders at the end of the day are only human and all humans are fallible at some point or the other! It only adds to a leader if he/she can graciously accept this fact and acknowledge mistakes and slip ups as and when. Infallibility is only God’s domain!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your comments, Shammi. Transparency has always been important, but it is only in recent times that the truly inspiring leaders have understood this. No one is infallible and they shouldn’t present themselves this way. I look forward to catching up again soon.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Will a robot be a better leader than a human? It is impossible to be a perfect human, but for a robot, it can be programmed. And in the future, probably this robot can lead human society and make sound decisions better than humans.

    Liked by 1 person

    • This has always been the theme of the great scientist and writer, Isaac Asimov. He was responsible for creating the laws of robotics and they have stood up quite well over time despite what some others have said. He also set the scene, prior to passing away, regarding the impact of artificial intelligence.

      This is also a theme that has been explored through Star Trek and the many spin offs with some thought provoking stories.

      If you ever get the chance to read his Foundation Trilogy (which deals with the human galactic empire at the end of its influence) and his Robot series (which deals with robots adapting to societies that fear them, through to the most amazing, plot twisting conclusion that brought a smile to my face). Here is a snapshot of how important his contribution has been: https://www.amnh.org/explore/news-blogs/news-posts/revisiting-asimov-s-three-laws-of-robotics

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  6. With social media being more prevalent these days, it’s hard to see a leader as an invincible individual. We can see a leader for all their strengths and imperfections. Leaders people admire tend to be hands-on and act as mentors for the people they lead.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think that is very true, Vanya. I made sure I was highly visible and approachable and had regular lines of communication happening. I found even with the most experienced directors who should have known better re such things, I would need to help them through particular leadership issues.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Very insightful!!!! When leaders show their mistakes, it’s awesome to see how they react to them.. like an authentic journey of growth that we can learn from as well ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Linda! I still remember the days when leaders would take it out on the people around them when the leader got things wrong. I have always found: be authentic, be transparent, admit mistakes and thank every employee regarding how they have helped the organisation to achieve ๐Ÿ˜Š

      Liked by 1 person

      • Aw, a humble approach will always resonate with those around you! That’s awesome. I also think when employees receive gratitude, is is very motivating! Lastly, I love that wisdom about being authentic no matter your position in the company. I think that’s needed in leadership! I took a leadership seminar, and that was one of the main values a lot of leaders had on the board. Keep rocking on, Sean! So happy to connect with you on WordPress, and wish you the very best.

        Like

  8. Well said! Even the best of leaders make mistakes or have little flaws that are just part of being human. As long as those mistakes don’t become a consistent pattern, they can actually be an opportunity for renewed cooperation by involving the team in problem-solving.

    Like

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