Leadership and influence are never perfected, only practiced. If you hold yourself separate as the one who has to “get it right” and have all the answers, you weaken your influence as a leader.
The most influential person in the room has the confidence to say, “I don’t have all the answers. I’m interested in what you think.” Entrepreneurs usually start out this way, but as their company grows and functions more like a business, they might fall into the trap of trying to manage their image.
Flying in like the superhero is seductive to leaders but perfection doesn’t exist in the ranks of humanity. One business owner (call him Dave) told me this, “I’m the owner. I’m the only one who can provide the solution to this problem.” Dave was under extraordinary pressure from the outside, but he was making his job more difficult and causing members of his team to distrust him by leaving them out.
Leaders who try to be perfect, self-sufficient and all-knowing wind up having to throw their weight around and keep others at arm’s length. They focus mostly on keeping up the display of bulletproof competence. Of course, competence isn’t a bad thing, but a hyper-focus suggests a trade-off. There’s no need to choose between imperfection and competence. Imperfection and vulnerability are not weaknesses. They require true strength of character, which is influence at its best.
When you practice imperfection (that is, humanness), you release your team from the fear of not meeting your expectations and being criticized. Those are things that block innovation and collaboration. Here are five tips to help set you on your path: