Why perfection is the enemy of leadership

ian kaye headshot
Ian Kaye, director at andpartnership.

It struck me when reading about the scale of the task facing our new Prime Minister (don’t worry this isn’t a political piece or a shameless tie in to current events) that compromise is one of the key skills a leader needs in today’s world. By all accounts, the issues facing Mr Johnson are more complex and difficult than ever before. Is this not the case for most of us in today’s increasingly VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) world?

It seems there is no silver bullet. No easy answer. Seemingly there are several incompatible ideas and targets that don’t seem to be achievable without huge compromise. 

Make more with less. Decrease your headcount but increase your profitability. Squeeze more from your people but focus on their wellbeing. Sound familiar? We are all being asked to do the impossible, to make everything perfect in an imperfect world. 

Whereas we used to look to leaders for all the answers, increasingly the best leaders are the ones who can steer us through this quagmire of complexity while keeping the engines running. The leaders who know which battles to fight and which to walk away from. The leaders who can please most of the people, most of the time… mostly. 

By aiming for perfect, it’s often only perfect for one set of people or for one element of our strategy and therefore the end result is often worse than if we aim to get it 80% right in more areas. Great leaders know that perfect is often the enemy of progress and that compromise might just be the most important skill they have.

If you feel unprepared for the leadership challenges ahead, why not join us on September 17th at Trent Bridge, Nottingham for The LeaderSHIFT Forum?