Perfectionism can be seen as both a positive and a negative quality, depending on the context and its impact on an individual’s life.

On the positive side, perfectionism can drive individuals to strive for excellence and high standards in their work, relationships, or personal endeavors. It can lead to meticulous attention to detail, a strong work ethic, and a commitment to producing high-quality outcomes. Perfectionists often have a strong desire to succeed and can be highly motivated to achieve their goals.

However, on the negative side, perfectionism can have detrimental effects on an individual’s well-being and day to day function. Perfectionists may set unrealistically high standards for themselves and others, leading to chronic dissatisfaction and self-criticism. They may experience excessive stress, anxiety, and burnout due to the constant pressure to meet their own impossibly high expectations. Perfectionism can also hinder productivity and creativity, as individuals may become overly focused on minor details or fear taking risks and making mistakes.

It’s important to note that there are different types of perfectionism. Adaptive perfectionism refers to a healthy pursuit of excellence and self-improvement, while maladaptive perfectionism is characterized by rigid standards, excessive self-criticism, and an inability to accept mistakes. The negative aspects of perfectionism typically apply more to maladaptive perfectionism.

In The Architectural, Engineering and Construction industry, healthy perfectionism can accelerate one’s career.  These are professions where attention to detail and getting it right are essential to success.   It’s easy to see then how perfectionism is nurtured for these technical professionals.  The challenge, however, comes when successful design and construction professionals start to transition into leadership roles. 

In the spirit of “what got you here won’t get you there,” we see a perfect scenario of reinforcing a specific behavior and connecting it with success in one role, that stands to work against us in another.   The problem is equating perfectionism with success is so ingrained in the habits and subconscious mind of the person that changing the behavior can be very difficult.

Here are some strategies that can help a perfectionist become a better leader while managing their perfectionist tendencies:

Delegate effectively. Recognize that you can’t do everything on your own and learn to delegate tasks to others. Clearly communicate your expectations and provide necessary guidance, but also trust your team members to deliver results. Delegating allows you to focus on higher-level tasks and empowers your team to take ownership of their work.

Set realistic expectations. While it’s important to strive for excellence, set realistic and attainable goals for yourself and your team. Avoid setting impossibly high standards that can lead to stress and burnout. Break down larger tasks into smaller, manageable goals to foster a sense of progress and accomplishment.

Foster a supportive environment. Create a work culture that values effort, growth, and learning rather than solely focusing on flawless outcomes. Encourage open communication, feedback, and collaboration. Emphasize the importance of learning from mistakes and using them as opportunities for improvement.

Practice self-awareness. Recognize when your perfectionism tendencies are emerging and how they may impact your leadership style. Cultivate self-awareness to identify moments when you might be micromanaging or setting unrealistic expectations.

Focus on progress, not just perfection. Shift your mindset from solely seeking perfection to valuing progress and continuous improvement. Celebrate achievements and milestones along the way, even if they fall short of perfection. Encourage a growth mindset within your team, emphasizing the importance of learning, adaptability, and resilience.

By implementing these strategies, a perfectionist can leverage their strengths while mitigating the negative aspects of their perfectionism, ultimately becoming a more effective and supportive leader.

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