Leadership in a Perfectionist world

“The almost perfect book about the impossibility of perfectionism” – RICHARD CURTIS

You won the deal, confetti explodes, the celebrations begin. All that hard work has paid off and the whole team is elated.

But you find yourself finding fault in the project and looking over everyone’s shoulder at the next thing. Before you know it, you are exhausted in the pursuit of perfection with an unbalanced life of success and struggle.

It’s never over, your fat lady never sings.

This a scenario Chris Ward knows too well – living as a perfectionist, seeing things as perfect or a failure with nothing in-between. Being a successful global charity campaigner and record-breaking adventure cyclist was never enough.

After an epiphany Chris realised that he wanted to understand perfectionism and how to overcome it. In his book ‘Less perfect, more happy’ he does that, with contributions from Bradley Wiggins, Davina McCall, Steve Jobs, Brené Brown and Brian Wilson.

This book helps us to understand what perfectionism is, remedy its negative impact on mental health, and overcome it to live a more fulfilling life.

The perfectionist leader

Our perfectionist world relentlessly leads us to compare ourselves to what a perfect person, or indeed perfect leader, looks like.  Breaking this cycle doesn’t just lead to a calmer and happier you but your team members benefit too because the pressure is eased and they feel empowered.

Top tips from Chris:

  1. Share your vulnerabilities with your team or those vulnerabilities will destroy you
  2. Learn from your childhood as well as that of your parents – it will reveal the drivers behind personalities and actions.
  3. Engage an industry insider who is ‘far better than’ you to provide advice and open doors. Such a person can act as a chairperson or spokesperson for your project or organisation.
  4. Clear communication is something perfectionists struggle with (often making twice as many points as they need to) so don’t feel the need to include every single point.
  5. Think bigger, not perfect: Think and act bigger than anyone else because, up there, there’s hardly any competition.

If you want to improve your leadership skills in a perfectionist world, join our event on 12 March at 6pm.

Chris and ‘Less Perfect More Happy’ have been featured on Radio 5Live, in the Evening Standard and Marie Claire.


Upstream are delighted to host ‘Leadership in a perfectionist world’ with Chris Ward in the near future. We have postponed the event from 12th March due to COVID-19 guidance. Please join our newsletter to hear when the new date is confirmed!