During months like Black History Month, and Women’s History Month, we focus our attention on leaders and change-makers in our various communities. Of course, I believe this should be a year-long endeavor, but that’s a conversation for a separate article.
We look at the amazing things they have done, and marvel at the impact they’ve made.
This is part of what I strive to do with PowerfulLatinas.com – tell stories of successful Latinas, change agents, and role models. I want to showcase our stories so we can learn from each other.
This focus on leaders is all important, and gives us direction and hope. However, I want to discuss a common trap.
We think our leaders are (or should be) perfect.
We especially see this when we watch any political commentary. Pundits say someone’s great, or they’re horrible, but rarely do they make concessions for the fact that we’re all HUMAN.
Why is this important?
But this may also be a subconscious expectation when we look up to historical figures, or to people we put up on a pedestal, only to find out that they have done things that are less than ideal.
To the extent we expect our leaders to be perfect, we also expect the same in ourselves (to some extent), and we fail to appreciate what true leadership is, and the leaders we have.
We are all – with our imperfections – doing the best we can. And when we, as leaders, make mistakes, we learn from them. It doesn’t mean we’re a bad leader; it just means we’re human, and continuing to learn and grow.
Should we hold leaders accountable? Absolutely!
However, when we expect our leaders to be perfect (and don’t allow for mistakes), then we fail to acknowledge that strong people must take risks to be good leaders (which means making mistakes from time to time).
We want to look up to our leaders, and see in them the best of what we are. And we should expect our leaders to make thoughtful, deliberate decisions. But that does not happen at all times.
When we expect perfection, we fail to see that leaders are human, and have faults, and are not equally good at all things.
Further, we often don’t acknowledge that no one does it alone.
While “the buck stops” with leaders, actual leaders are not DOING everything themselves. Smart leaders have support systems and other complex arrangements surrounding them.
Finally, when we have unrealistic expectations for leaders, we tend to have similarly unrealistic expectations for ourselves… and/or we fail to see ourselves as leaders.
Let’s Accept Complexity (and Learning)
Leaders (and we) are not perfect. We are all doing our best. Criticism should be constructive, and always with an eye toward positive change.
We should get better (and expect our leaders to do the same), but also accept our humanity.
How have you expected perfection from leaders? How has this hurt you? What other pitfalls do you see in expecting perfection?