Much leadership development work, talk and rhetoric seems to focus on apparent models of excellence. Such “excellence” may be the zeitgeist, cultural expectations, truly evidence based or just philosophically attractive. Even when the focus is on understanding self and impact, there is a tendency to focus on strengths and perhaps mitigate unproductive behaviours. At its best, trying to be a better version of who you are already… at its worst, poor window dressing.
Yet, when I think of my own leadership, the leaders I work with, the leaders I have worked with and those all important role models, we are all brilliantly flawed. By that I mean that there are aspects of our leadership that is great and at the same time, like every other human, we have our flaws. These flaws colour our leadership to a greater or lesser extent; sometimes situations make them more apparent.
I’ve found those flaws something to be curiously valued in light of what is great or brilliant in others leadership. In fact, there’s a diversity in those flaws of others that often challenges thinking, giving us different perspective or reinforcing what we appreciate beyond those flaws.
Much is in the eye of the beholder? Even so, in developing our own leadership and that of others, I believe we need to make room for appreciating and accepting how we are brilliantly flawed (both brilliant and flawed) far more than we need to strive for perfection. Perhaps the Pareto principle (or similar) is particularly relevant to developing leadership? Now you don’t hear many leadership development experts saying get the 80% right and you’re “plenty good enough” do you!
Here’s another perspective…
In the context of diamonds, internal flaws & imperfections are referred to as inclusions. The clarity of the diamond is affected by these inclusions and determines the value of the diamond. In writing this post I find that there is something very appealing about recognising those internal flaws with that word “inclusions“.
In the context of a valuable object for adornment, being flawless seems important – inclusions aren’t desirable.
Yet when we see those famous leaders adorned with that pedestal of perfection we “find out” over time that they had a dark side or a flaw. The binary positions of myopic advocates missing the richer, blended perspective of the person that always was.
In the context of leadership being brilliantly flawed is an important reality – perhaps even something we should see as desirable.
So we shouldn’t seek flawlessness in our leadership – it’s an impossibility. The rhetoric and marketing of the apparently infallible is always to be suspected.
Brilliantly flawed is a much more human and useful focus, don’t you think?