On Leadership, And Imperfection

Leadership / Leadership //

“the thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of being yourself.”

–Anna Quindlen

i’ve been reading the ever fantastic book The Gifts of Imperfection by Dr. Brene Brown. along with a few friends, we’re reading and participating in this online course. it’s all very good.

somewhere along the way, i learned that being the leader = getting everything right, always. that the best leaders don’t make mistakes, don’t apologize, and always have the foresight to make the best, right, perfect decisions. that leader & perfectionist are synonymous.

of course, this is ridiculous. i’m aware. i’m mindful this is not how i want to lead. but, still it’s hard to shake this bad habit. and, that’s just what my perfectionism is — a bad habit that needs to be re-learned and practiced until new skills, new attitudes, new behaviors are formed.

in her book, brene describes perfectionism as a belief we have that if we live perfect, look perfect, and act perfect, we minimize or avoid blame, judgement, and shame. it’s a shield that protects us from pain. she writes perfectionism is a twenty-ton shield that we lug around thinking it will protect us when, in fact, it’s the thing really preventing us from taking flight.

oye. protecting myself from pain and shame while leading is sometimes, when i’m most honest, what i’m really striving for–the goal being a pain-free, pleasant, feel-good day. but, really. that isn’t anything. it’s not life, and it’s not real, and it doesn’t provide long-term connection, or satisfaction.

instead, real life. real connection. real courage. i’m trying to re-shape new habits by practicing self-kindness. to speak grace, love, forgiveness and understanding to myself in the same way i do for others. in my head i’m telling myself it’s ok. you’re human. we’ll figure this out. not a big deal. really, the words i say a million times to everyone. myself excluded.

oh! and, another thing. i’m paying attention to my behavior when i find myself in vulnerable leadership situations — when a teammate disagrees with an idea, or i’m unprepared when asked a question. i’ve been noticing that my first instinct is to get super defensive, and start pushing hard on matters unrelated to the situation. instead, when i find myself feeling vulnerable as a leader, i’m taking brene’s advice: don’t shrink. don’t puff up. stand your sacred ground.

a new leader in me is emerging. one in which i’m able to give and accept grace, speak truth while being both brave and afraid, and welcome the gifts that imperfection brings.





About the Author

Amy Dolan is founder, leader and blogger for Lemon Lime Kids, a children’s ministry consulting company that seeks to encourage churches to consider a fresh approach to leading and teaching children. Amy started the company in 2005, as a way to empower and encourage fellow children’s ministry leaders, and since that first day has had the opportunity to work with leaders & organizations committed to the spiritual growth of children. Amy believes that the church fully empowered, combined with the commitment of the family, and the compassion of the community has the power to inspire children’s faith for a lifetime. In addition to her consulting work with Lemon Lime Kids, Amy leads the strategic curriculum development for Phil Vischer’s new curriculum What’s in the Bible? (whatsinthebible.com), and serves as Director of LOCAL, a Chicago-area children’s ministry collaborative (kidmin.com). Amy is the former Executive Director for Children’s Ministry at the Willow Creek Association, a former Children’s Ministry Director at The Chapel in Libertyville, IL and a Curriculum Writer for Promiseland at Willow Creek in South Barrington. Amy is proud to be married to her husband Kelly, and loves living in Chicago. Amy blogs at lemonlimekids.com and tweets at @adolan.