Expect Excellence, Not Perfection

Document created by 1050210 on Oct 30, 2014
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Published Date: 02/24/2014


Reneé Watkins

By Reneé Watkins


There are leaders who expect excellence from their employees and there are those who expect perfection. To be as close in degree as excellence and perfection are, these two levels of expectation inspire employees in entirely different ways.




Leaders who expect perfection typically use their own interpretation of what perfection means to set the bar. They tend to drive others to do things exactly how they believe it should be done and drive their employees crazy in the process. A leader who expects perfection also gets involved in the process deliberately in order to interject their processes and ideas. For these hard-driven personalities, perfection is what they expect of themselves and demand of everyone else. Their drive and determination has brought them success in their own careers, but it may not be for everyone.


Perfectionists, in a leadership role, tend to have an organization that operates like a revolving door where employee retention is concerned. Experienced employees who feel they will never measure up to management’s expectations will leave and seek a less stressful environment where they can feel successful and appreciated. Their projects have become meaningless and boring, as their leaders have already laid everything out for them and dictated the manner in which it should be done. Employees working for a perfectionist will usually hear about all the things that are missing from their performance, rather than those aspects that are going well.




Leaders who expect excellence from their employees, first expect it from themselves. By demonstrating excellence in what they do, these leaders inspire their employees to rise to the example they have set. Contrary to “perfection,” excellence can be measured on a case-by-case basis. Perfection only has one solution. Managers who embrace and recognize excellence appreciate the subtle differences between employees and that there are many “excellent” solutions for completing a project or task. Rather than directly getting involved in projects, these leaders make themselves available to guide and mentor.


Organizations led by this management style become a talent magnet. Candidates will get in line to work for an organization where they can learn, grow and express their own ideas. Work is challenging and well-defined. Initiative is both encouraged and rewarded with upward mobility inside the organization. Employees working for a leader who promotes excellence typically hear about the overall success of their work as a whole in promoting the corporate goals. Minor mistakes or flaws are overlooked in favor of strong work ethic and a successful performance. Perfection is not a requirement.


Which type of leader would you rather follow?