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Perfectionism is way more common than we think. Here are three common types of perfectionism found in leadership:


  1. Socially Prescribed Perfectionists: 

Socially prescribed perfectionists feel immense pressure to be the best and worry that others    will reject and/or judge them. Perceived external standards (from family, workplace, culture, society, etc.) can lead to anxiety and low confidence. They tend to be very self-critical. 


  1.   Other-Oriented Perfectionists: 


Other-oriented perfectionists expect others to be perfect. They hold their people to impossibly high standards and tend to be very critical and judgemental. They struggle to build and maintain healthy working relationships and often leave destruction in their wake. 


  1.   Self-Oriented Perfectionists:


Self-oriented perfectionists are organized and conscientious. They set high standards for themselves in their lives and careers, but are able to go after their goals. They are ‘adaptive’ in that they experience greater productivity, success and resourcefulness than the other two types, but are still inevitably susceptible to eventual burnout due to unsustainable expectations of themselves. 


Eventually, most perfectionist leaders reach a point where they realize that expecting the world from themselves (or others) is not sustainable. The most common symptoms that lead to this realization are: 


  • burnout
  • unmanageable levels of anxiety around repetitive daily tasks
  • resentment towards family, friends, co-workers and/or team members
  • an urge to quit or walk away from the position and/or profession


If any of these sound familiar, the question is what can you do about it? 


Here are five tangible things you can do to turn perfectionism into sustainable, healthy striving. 

  1. Identify the hidden payoff in perfectionism. Why have you been engaging in these behaviours? i.e.external acknowledgement and praise, protection from failure and rejection, etc.
  2. Get brutally honest about the cost of perfectionism. What has paid the price for this unsustainable strategy? i.e. your mental/physical health and well-being, relationships, etc.
  3. Let go of the ‘all-or-nothing’ mindset. Catch yourself when veering towards worst-case scenario thinking, avoid obsessing over setbacks and find a mentor who can help you see things through a more objective lens.
  4. Break down your big goals into smaller, realistic steps. Create multiple milestones and checkpoints over the course of the project/year. This gives you the opportunity to assess and pivot as you go, as well as plenty of manageable opportunities to get more comfortable navigating adversity.
  5. Celebrate your successes. Create space to celebrate small victories as they occur before moving on to the next goal. Acknowledging the progress that you, your employees and your team are making builds confidence and fuels consistent, sustainable growth and improvement. 

Happy leading & learning folks!


-Coach MJ 

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