Leadership Tensions: Excellence vs. Perfection

This one causes plenty of spats within the church leadership culture.

Are we stifling God’s Spirit because we’re planning every minute of the service?

Are we dismissing someone’s God-given gift because we don’t think it’s good enough?

Lots of questions with polarizing responses.

Excellence vs. Perfection is a real leadership tension that leaders face, especially ministry leaders.

How do we give our best to God while also being sensitive to how God is leading us?

How do we lead others to give their best while also being sensitive to how God may be growing them?

I believe the answer is found in a very subtle distinction:

Excellence is an attitude. 

Perfection is a response.

Excellence is a desire to give your best all the time.

Perfection is a response to the fear of not being good enough.

In both cases we’re aiming to please someone, but from entirely different motives.

Excellence flows out of a desire to give, perfection flows from a fear of something being taken.

The perfectionist is grasping for ways to earn approval.

The person pursuing excellence is offering their best to others and to God.

The activities will often look the same from the outside, but it’s the motivation that creates the subtle distinction.

As a leader, be tuned into what motivates you and your team.  Is your team giving their best as an act of service or a response to fear?

Look for opportunities to teach and reward the difference.

What’s your heart pursuing… excellence or perfection?

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  • Kenny Miracle October 1, 2012  

    Well said, Jenni! This has always been a constant tension for me, too. I like how you brought it back to the motives of our hearts. I work in the creative arena, where even excellence can be subjective. I find that collaboration & critique without offense really help shape a culture of excellence. Thanks!

  • liv4him26 October 1, 2012  

    Thanks for clarifying the difference between perfection and excellence and the motives behind them. Too often we get stuck in what we are doing and wanting and striving for and we fail to take a moment to look at the motives!

  • Emily October 2, 2012  

    This is a great explanation of the difference between the 2.  Sharing with our team because being critical evaluators of all we do it helps us communicate the value of excellence without expecting perfection. Thanks for sharing!

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  • Serah2jack January 28, 2013  

    Great stuff