Work-In-Progress Leadership


There is a notion out there that leaders must be perfect, always do the right thing, and that there is only one way to move to a result. If you have ever considered a true notion, I am here to show you that it is a fallacy. The notion of perfection in leadership creates undue stress that manifests as arrogance, being risk-averse, being short and curt with others, long decision-making, etc. I am sure you could add a few of your own.

WIP (Work-In-Progress) Leadership is embracing the truth that we are all perfectly imperfect, which means that we will make mistakes, unknowingly or knowingly upset others, must make the hard decisions, cannot mitigate all risks, and will be wrong.

Leadership is the practice of being, thinking, doing, learning, and adapting. It’s also about the ability to ask for insight and guidance from others, being your unfiltered self sometimes to grapple with what is evolving in your understanding of self and situations, and the willingness to expand your thinking beyond what your initial impressions may have been.

If you look back at history to the beginning of time, there are very few leaders who have led a “perfect” life or always made the “right” decision. It is in our imperfection that we grow the most. The Greek Gods were fabulous for having great power and making great mistakes. We can’t get away from our humanity of being imperfect.

Alas, we must evolve beyond the precocious nature of the Greek Gods and become emotionally mature. William C. Menniger identifies the Criteria for Emotional Maturity as follows:

  • The ability to deal constructively with reality.
  • The capacity to adapt to change.
  • A relative freedom from symptoms that are produced by tensions and anxieties.
  • The capacity to find more satisfaction in giving than receiving.
  • The capacity to relate to other people in a consistent manner with mutual satisfaction and helpfulness.
  • The capacity to sublimate, to direct one’s instinctive hostile energy into creative and constructive outlets.
  • The capacity to love.

As you balance the willingness to be, embrace freedom, and the responsibilities of leadership, here are several pieces to support your journey as a Work-In-Progress leader:

  1. Develop your personal values from your voice, experience, and sense of self.
  2. Define what brings you satisfaction and fulfillment each day.
  3. Understand and define the impact you want to have on others.
  4. Be present in each moment and learn methods to keep speaking your truth in a way that engages others and encourages others to do the same.
  5. Be aware of when you are trying to mitigate risk at the expense of allowing things to unfold in an even better way.
  6. Know your strengths and best abilities and define where they are a true asset to a situation(s).
  7. Develop your weaknesses to become new strengths.
  8. Don’t let the knowing of yourself become an excuse not to try new things and grow.
  9. Change – don’t ignore the need to shift and change. Be confident in your ability to grow and learn.

In this CNN.com article on the future of work, leaders are identifying the changing world and building new approaches.

These are just some examples that I have noticed of leaders who move and achieve at new levels, while building great teams and outcomes. What else is true for you?

Embrace your imperfection,