Leaders Wanted – Perfection Not Required

By Doug Sterbenz, Present to Win Leaders

Early in my career, I figured out that the people who got ahead were those who dressed well. They dressed up for the job they wanted. Look good, get ahead: A simple formula.

ink spotAs the elevator doors opened, I looked down at the floor as I walked out of the elevator, and that’s when I saw it—a huge, black ink spot on my new white dress shirt.

I Panicked.  

Those who appointed and trusted me to attend this meeting wanted me to make a great first impression, and so did I. Well, I was about to make a memorable first impression all right!

At first I tried to avoid the embarrassment by escaping. I immediately turned around to go back into the elevator, but the doors banged shut in my face. There was no alternate escape route in sight. Then I saw it—the registration table lined with nametags. That was my way out!

In record time, I located my nametag, quickly peeled off the back paper, and slapped it directly over the ink spot. Bam! Problem solved! Boy, was I good! I went in and joined the other attendees, gliding swiftly and confidently into mingle mode.

Not So Fast.

About 30 minutes had passed when Grady, a well-dressed, distinguished-looking, middle-aged man came up to me, glanced at my name tag and said, “Doug, nice to meet you.”

“Nice to meet you, too,” I replied.

He immediately leaned in toward me and whispered, “Hey Doug, I can see your ink spot.”

Now I did not know this man at the time, but Grady’s soft voice stopped me in my tracks. Grady’s words made me realize how foolish I really was. Anybody who looked at my nametag could notice the ink spot, and they were all looking at my nametag since I was a first timer. I wasn’t fooling anybody.

Nice Job Doug

That day, I had a flaw that I did not want anybody to see. I was embarrassed because I was not perfect. But the joke was on me because Grady wasn’t the only one who saw that ink spot. I’m sure many other people saw it but didn’t bother confronting me.

We desperately want to believe that we can actually get away with hiding our imperfections. We hang on to the belief that we are fooling people by concealing our weaknesses and flaws.

Cover Our Flaws

But can we really fool people by attempting to hide our flaws? And can we really pretend that we can hide them all? All leaders have weaknesses, faults, and ink spots of their own. It is easy for us to see the flaws, the ink spots on others’ shirts, but those same people think their spots are well hidden.

It’s Just Not True

I don’t know what your flaws, doubts, and fears are, but if you’re human you’ve got them. The fact is that we leaders must learn to lead effectively despite our imperfections. Instead of hiding them, we should acknowledge them, which is the first step to improvement. Then, surround yourself with great leadership material for 8 minutes every day. That is the key to real improvement.

Help is Available

You can find these great leadership resources yourself, or, I have already done the work for you. Just ask me, and I will send you a list of 10 excellent leadership resources–completely free. All you have to do is commit to giving it 8 minutes per day. This is the same offer many sought from last month’s blog.

Acknowledge your flaws and work on those along with your strengths everyday by surrounding yourself with great leadership resources. Rest assured, your days will be free of the panic and embarrassment of those ink spots and your leadership and influence will grow.

See Doug deliver this story to a live audience.

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