You don’t have to be perfect

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in Best-Practices Leadership,Leaders & Managers

You start to think that you have to be perfect to be a leader. You have to set perfect goals, make perfect speeches, arrive at perfect decisions and motivate people perfectly.

Not so. Even the greatest leaders have flaws. Sometimes very big flaws.

Consider E. B. White, the legendary editor of The New Yorker. More than 20 years after his death, White’s influence still pervades the magazine, where his editorial standards are still discussed and upheld.

Yet, “Andy,” as friends and family called him, was a hypochondriac who usually failed to show up for important events. When he refused to travel to Washington to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Lyndon Johnson, Sen. Edmund Muskie had to pick it up for him. Even when White did appear in public, he often prepared himself with a few drinks.

Still, a combination of remarkably strong assets made White a leader. He completely mastered simple, lucid writing. (Read his classics Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little.) And he took such kind interest in people around him that they overlooked his weaknesses.

The lesson: Leadership comes to people who use their strengths so brilliantly that their flaws become minor considerations in the context of a remarkable life.

— Adapted from “Andy,” by Roger Angell, The New Yorker.

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