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The perfectionist's dilemma & how a leadership coach can help

The Perfectionists Dilemma | How Leadership Coaching Helps New Leaders | Melissa Hague Leadership Coach & Dare To Lead Facilitator UK

Let's talk about the issue of perfectionism - it feels like a virtue, but actually, it can cause real problems for the new regional manager

How Leadership Coaching Helps New Leaders

As a newly appointed leader, you will have been accustomed to achieving excellence as an individual contributor. Your track record of success and diligence earned you the recognition and opportunity to lead. However, transitioning from a top performer to a leader responsible for guiding and inspiring others can present a problem for perfectionists. It’s called The Perfectionist’s Dilemma.

Perfectionism is often perceived as a positive trait associated with high standards and a strong work ethic. While these attributes can be advantageous, the perfectionist's mindset can be a real problem when stepping into a leadership role. The pressure to maintain a flawless image and make no mistakes can lead to self-criticism, fear of failure, and an inability to delegate effectively. I think of it as the perfectionist’s trap.

New leaders sometimes grapple with the perfectionist's dilemma—striving for unattainable perfection while simultaneously realising that leadership inherently involves challenges and imperfections. The fear of making mistakes or not living up to their own lofty standards will, if they let it, create a significant barrier to their growth and success. Let me be clear - perfectionism is different to healthy striving. Healthy striving is internally focused - I want this for me. I want to strive to be the best I can be - for me. How can I improve?

Perfectionism, on the other hand, is all about trying to earn approval and acceptance. It’s about hustling for your worth. Contrary to the belief of most perfectionists, perfectionism is not about healthy achievement and growth, it’s about constantly being saddled with a worry of what others will think.

Perfectionism is the belief that if we live perfect, look perfect and act perfect, we can minimise or avoid the pain of blame, judgement and shame - Brené Brown.

We believe that perfectionism will protect us from the feelings mentioned in this quote when in fact, it prevents us from flying.

One of the most important things to understand about leadership coaching is that it is a transformative solution that can help address the perfectionist's dilemma and help new leaders thrive. By working with a skilled leadership coach, new leaders can gain the support and guidance they need to overcome the challenges associated with perfectionism and develop the leadership skills necessary for success.

One of the essential aspects of leadership coaching is nurturing self-compassion. New leaders must recognise that they, like all individuals, are resistant to making mistakes or encountering challenges. Embracing self-compassion involves treating yourself with kindness and understanding when you face difficulties. This isn’t some new-fangled nonsense, it’s essential for new leaders to succeed but it’s remarkably rare. Coaching helps new leaders replace self-criticism with self-kindness, allowing them to learn from setbacks and grow as leaders.

Leadership Coaching Helps Perfectionists Let Go

Leadership coaching helps new leaders redefine their perception of success. Instead of equating success with flawless performance, coaching encourages them to measure success in progress, growth, and impact on their teams and organisations. Shifting the focus from achieving perfection to making a positive difference empowers new leaders to lead authentically and confidently.

A common thing perfectionists struggle with is delegation. They worry that tasks may not be completed to their exacting standards. Leadership coaching provides the tools and techniques necessary for effective delegation, helping new leaders develop the skills to let them trust their team members and empower them to excel in their roles. Delegating tasks strategically relieves the burden on new leaders and fosters team growth and development.

Fear of failure can be paralysing for perfectionists, stopping them from taking calculated risks and embracing new opportunities. Leadership coaching equips new leaders with strategies to navigate the fear of failure and adopt a growth mindset. Understanding that failure is essential to the learning process helps new leaders build resilience and turn setbacks into valuable learning experiences.

Leadership coaching also focuses on developing emotional intelligence, a crucial leadership skill. Emotional intelligence isn’t about suppressing our emotions, but about learning when (and when not) to act, depending upon our emotional state. By honing their emotional intelligence, new leaders can better understand and regulate their emotions and understand the emotions of their team members. This heightened emotional awareness encourages a positive work culture, strengthens interpersonal relationships, and is essential for effective leadership.

Perfectionism Is An Obstacle

The perfectionist's dilemma can be a significant obstacle for new leaders, stunting their growth and potential. Leadership coaching offers a powerful and transformative solution to address this dilemma and empower new leaders to thrive. New leaders can overcome perfectionist tendencies and lead confidently and authentically by embracing self-compassion, redefining success, mastering effective delegation, and developing emotional intelligence.

As a new leader, it is essential to recognise that leadership is a growth and continuous learning journey. Embracing leadership coaching is a proactive step towards unlocking your leadership potential, navigating challenges with resilience, and positively impacting your teams and organisation. You could do much worse than joining the many who have let leadership coaching be the catalyst for transformation and embracing becoming a confident, effective, and compassionate leader.

Melissa Hague | Leadership Coach & Certifed Dare to Lead Facilitator

About the Author

Melissa is a Leadership Coach and Certified Dare to Lead™ Facilitator based in Dorset, with a particular interest in supporting people who are stepping up from managing individuals to leading other managers.


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