The Myth of “The Perfect Leader”


Originally published in The Stylist Newspapers.

The topic this month, highlighted on my editorial calendar, reads, “The Perfect Salon Leader.” I considered how I could craft an article, outlining the traits that I would use to create the “perfect” leader, but the truth is that “the perfect leader” is a myth, and to perpetuate it by putting forth an arbitrary list of generic traits, expecting mere mortals to attempt to become that unrealistic model of flawlessness would be wrong and unfair.

A big part of my job as a salon management consultant is explaining to anxious, stressed out salon owners that perfection is an unattainable state. In reality, the best anyone can aspire to be is an effective leader—someone who can rally others to work together, provide encouragement, communicate well, and help others achieve their goals. Instead of urging you to “do your best,” I’m going to share the traits of effective leaders who do what needs to be done.

Effective leaders don’t lead (or seem as if they’re not leading). Instead of directing others, help your team realize solutions themselves. This “invisible hand leadership” builds confidence and greatly boosts morale. You can help facilitate this by asking your team questions and letting them reach their own conclusions. Some of their conclusions may surprise you and provide you with a better option!

Effective leaders are great communicators. A great communicator isn’t someone who can talk excessively—it’s someone who can listen intently, who speaks with purpose, and who ensures that everyone on their team is informed. Hold one-on-ones with your team and solicit feedback. Keep your ears open and be sure to keep everyone involved in the loop!

Effective leaders are attuned and responsive to the team’s needs. What do your team members value? What areas do they struggle in and how can you help them in those areas? Leadership becomes easier when you’re perceptive to what each individual requires from you. You learn these things by watching, listening, and constantly assessing.

Effective leaders have open minds. Stupid questions and crazy theories don’t exist. All are welcome and deserve to be entertained. Nurture your team’s creativity. Allowing a group to explore their ideas in a judgment-free environment is how revolutionary innovations are discovered.

Effective leaders don’t have all the answers and are completely fine with that. A confident leader doesn’t let their pride block their progress. When necessary, they can sit back, shrug, and say, “I don’t know. Let’s toss some ideas around and see what solutions we can come up with together.” Too often, salon owners tell me they feel as if they’re failing their staff and their business when they don’t have all the answers. Don’t beat yourself up in a similar way or be tempted to make uninformed decisions. Letting your pride compromise your integrity will often lead to failure—and failure will cost you the trust of your team.

Effective leaders don’t keep score. A great leader measures success in terms of the team’s overall experience. Knowledge is valued over performance. The team may not have hit their goal or accomplished their purpose, but if they’ve learned and grown as professionals from the experience, the effective leader sees it as a success.

Effective leaders can generate enthusiasm. Motivation is directly tied to morale. Good morale stems from fostering enthusiasm. Enthusiasm is the fuel that keeps a team moving forward toward their goal. Effective leaders have the ability to uplift their team and keep them excited about what they’re doing. This can be accomplished by reminding the team how far they’ve come, how much they’ve grown, and how much of a positive impact their contributions have made.

Effective leaders know they aren’t perfect and don’t waste time and energy trying to be. Great leaders move relentlessly toward achievement, but know that perfection isn’t reasonable. The only time they compare themselves to the mythical “Perfect Leader,” is to measure their achievements—not count their shortcomings.

Effective leaders embrace the struggle. Every leader faces difficulties and makes mistakes. Instead of seeing these trials as a sign of weakness or incompetence, effective leaders see them as learning opportunities. Instead of wilting under their failures, they grow, evolve, and come out stronger for it. Accomplishing this requires adopting a growth mindset. Approach failures with a positive attitude. “What can we learn from this and how can we utilize these lessons to keep this from occurring in the future?”

Whether you’re a salon owner or manager, leadership of any kind can be difficult, but it’s also incredibly rewarding. By accepting that perfection is a myth and resolving to instead be the most effective leader you’re capable of being, you can make the process of leading much more enjoyable and far less stressful.

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Beauty industry survivalist, salon crisis interventionist, tactical verb-weapon specialist, and the leader of at least a hundred workplace revolutions, Tina Alberino is known as much for her extensive knowledge as for her sarcastic wit and mercilessly straightforward style. She’s the author of the book The Beauty Industry Survival Guide and the blog This Ugly Beauty Business. When she’s not writing, educating, or consulting, she can be found overthinking everything, identifying problems people didn’t know existed, and stubbornly working to change the things she cannot accept.


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