I just read an interesting post on great leaders knowing they are imperfect. It is mainly about people who are NOT great leaders, discussing the over-compensation that can result when people feel out of their depth.
I think the truth is that all of us know we have our weaknesses – the issue is whether we have the courage to forgive ourselves for having weaknesses, and having faith in our colleagues to recognize that our strengths far outweigh our weaknesses.
It is a characteristic of many heroes that they are flawed (and this is most clearly portrayed in comic book superheroes, which Hollywood is currently obsessed with). It is their flaws, paradoxically, that makes us love them as it allows us to empathise with them.
It is sad and worrying to see (highly-stressed) managers, having shinned up the greasy pole of promotion, trying not to delegate any responsibilities because any lack of control by them would be a sign of weakness. Once they reach their limits, this has a number of serious consequences:
- Things get done slowly and badly, as that manager is a key pinch point on everything
- Some things don’t get done at all
- A defensive position means positive changes/opportunities are rejected
- Staff have no opportunity to develop and grow, so the good ones leave
- The staff that stays switches off their initiative and just turn the handle when they are told to
- Everything falls apart when that manager gets sick or goes on holiday
- Their defensiveness is fed by the cordial dislike of their staff
Of course, this manager goes around claiming to be a great hero – single-handedly coping with the inadequacies of their useless team and taking all the credit for any success. They may get promoted for it, but it cannot last forever, and it’s no fun for anyone.
The really great leaders are loved for their human failings, as well as their super-human strengths.
(I’d like to thank Video Arts’ video on coaching (Robert Lindsay, John Cleese and Jan Ravens) which I saw many years ago and which left an indelible impression on me!)