I’ve experienced highly diligent/perfectionists a few times lately. The phrase “perfectionist” seems to carry a negative connotation with it; however, “perfectionism”, “diligence” shows up in varying degrees with varying benefits and drawbacks. Those we tend to characterize as “perfectionists” tend to have extremely high expectations and standards for themselves and subsequently believe that those expectations and standards should be shared and adhered to by others. Perfectionists, or those who are highly diligent, are meticulous, detail oriented, thorough and they adhere to established rules and procedures regardless of what or who would suggest otherwise. The flip side is, the expectations and standards may overlook other contextual realities and place undue burden and frustration on the individual when others (or even they) don’t meet "expectations".
There’s obviously strengths and weaknesses associated with this trait, as well as the multitude of others, that are the result of our experiences, educations, beliefs, etc. The hope is that we, as leaders and influencers, will take the time to deepen our self-awareness and accept our strengths and weaknesses, leveraging the former and minimizing the later to have a positive impact on the world around us.
Daniels & Price (2000) refer to perfectionists as "ones" in the Enneagram vernacular. Perfectionists are focused on personal integrity and can be wise and discerning. They also tend to dissociate themselves from their flaws or what they believe are flaws (such as negative emotions) and can become hypercritical of others.
Hewitt & Flett (1991) devised another "multidimensional perfectionism scale" that defines three forms of perfectionism:
- Self-oriented – high expectations for self
- Other oriented – high expectations for others
- Social prescribed – high expectations from others (parents, etc.)
Each of these are characterized by very high standards and expectations. A negative consequence associated with high diligence is often a degree of inflexibility and the potential for missed opportunities due to being lost in the weeds. Perfectionists may be viewed by others as controlling and overly critical expecting others to follow their lead and meet their expectations without exception.
The plus side to perfectionism is a strong orientation to details, focus and follow through. The first two types will have a strong self-esteem associated with assertiveness, while the socially prescribed may be overly self-critical and insecure.
Determining where you fall on the scale of perfectionism and how it influences your behavior and decision making is an important step to improved leadership effectiveness. Take the free Perfectionism Test to