I have thought, and often said, that I want to be excellent in what I do, but not try to be perfect. When I expect and demand perfection from myself or others it’s going to be a loosing game. John Maxwell once said that if you did something perfectly the first time you tried you waited too long to start. Dan Rockwell shares some great ideas on how to accept imperfection like a leader.

Originally posted by Dan Rockwell

If I could begin my leadership journey again, I’d accept imperfection.

Leadership begins after you accept imperfection.


If I could take back the time I wasted on searching for perfection – before I took action – I’d be young again. More important, I’d have wisdom from learning as I go, not before I go.

The right answer is the one that’s good enough to create imperfect progress. Get going.

Accept imperfection:

Accept imperfection – enable connection. Vulnerabilities are magnets that pull us together. Give others a glimpse of your imperfections if you expect transparency and candor from them.

Accept imperfection – enable action. Initiative is deadly in organizations that punish mistake-makers. The pursuit of better is an acknowledgement of imperfection. There are no iterations of perfection. Accepting imperfection is a starting point, not an end.

Every responsible mistake you punish drains boldness from the team.

Accept imperfection – ignite boldness. The next time someone screws up, say, “Thanks for trying.” Pat them on the back and ask, “What will you do differently next time?”

Confront mistakes of neglect. Celebrate mistakes of initiative.

Highly talented:

Less talented teammates require more intervention and supervision.

The brighter and more talented your team, the more necessary it is to accept imperfection. Marshall Goldsmith warns leaders against ‘adding too much value.’ Go with their imperfect ideas.

People love, implement, and improve their own ideas.

Make people smarter by taking them seriously.

Reject imperfection:

  1. Reject unethical behaviors.
  2. Reject substandard performance from those with demonstrated competence.
  3. Reject imperfect teammates when they don’t aspire to improve. Accepting imperfection isn’t an excuse to luxuriate in mediocrity. 
  4. Reject imperfection when it causes harm.

If you aspire to connect, accept imperfection.

If you hope to tap into the brains around you, accept imperfection.

If you seek engagement, accept imperfection.

If you expect action, accept imperfection.

How might leaders accept and leverage imperfection?

When should imperfection be rejected?