My imperfections help me soar to new heights and be the best version of myself

Like many children out there, when I was younger, I dreamt of being Superman. After all, he can fly, shoot lasers from his eyes, and seems unbreakable – who wouldn’t want to be the perfect Superman we all know and love? Well… I don’t. Not anymore. 

Despite idolising Superman as a kid, I’ve since learned that his flawless character and perfect image are actually not things we should be aspiring to. In my eyes, Superman’s perfection is ultimately his greatest flaw. It isolated him and deprived him of genuine human connections. The same goes for any of us who strive to maintain a facade of perfection – if you have no flaws, who will relate to you? Who will engage with you? 

Accepting your imperfections

After decades of career experience and personal journeys, one lesson has proven to be true, time and time again: my imperfections help me to soar, both professionally and personally. In a world where everyone seems to be striving for perfection, we need to understand that it is our imperfections that allow us to be the best leaders, partners, friends, colleagues, parents, and people we can be. 

I’ve faced significant adversity from my imperfections throughout my life. I grew up living in Indonesia with a Chinese background. As a result, I experienced racial biases from my peers at school. Not only was I ethnically different, but I was also underperforming in my studies and constantly found myself at the bottom of my class for most of my early schooling years. When I started working in Australia, English was my second language and I had to navigate the world through chipped communication. Even when I joined Pierlite, I had no experience in lighting, causing people to question my ability to succeed in a lighting company. Yet, despite all my setbacks, I managed to end up as the leader of one of Australia’s and New Zealand’s largest lighting companies while frequently giving speeches to boards and large audiences, despite my broken English. How did I overcome this adversity? By accepting my imperfections and not letting them hinder my opportunities. 

Despite the challenges that come with my “imperfections”, I always try to accept them for what they are. The minute you accept your imperfections, is the minute you open yourself to opportunities, growth, and stronger human connections. 

I’m not saying that we should all just accept our faults and leave it at that – I’m a big advocate for continually growing and working on our weaknesses. What I mean is that we must accept our imperfections, understand that it is ok to have weaknesses, and be open and transparent about them, while maintaining resilience and continuing to grow.

Strong leaders showcase their weaknesses 

It’s incredibly common for leaders to want to appear all-knowing and capable of anything. But the truth is that upholding a facade of perfection can create barriers between you and your team that can ultimately damage your business. 

Did you know that half of CEOs are lonely in their role? 61% of these CEOs believe their isolation hinders their performance, which can negatively affect business. Those at the top are often the most isolated because of outdated power dynamics between bosses and their workers.

At Pierlite, I try to diminish hierarchical power dynamics by being transparent about my weaknesses, struggles, and imperfections. There are no surprises between my team and I. They know when I’m frustrated, tired, or excited; they hear about both my highs and lows. As a result of being transparent and vulnerable, my team knows that I am no Superman – I may be CEO by title, but at the end of the day, I’m just like everybody else. The benefits are endless. Our workplace is balanced and our team is strongly aligned, which leads to higher productivity, stronger communication, and lower staff turnover rates. 

Sociologist Brené Brown explains that being transparent about our vulnerabilities is an effective method of building trust and boosting performance. Leaders set the tone for a workplace’s culture, which is why it is crucial for leaders to be open about their weaknesses and imperfections in order for their team to do the same. Why is this important? Because being authentic and open will create a psychologically safe workplace that encourages employees to speak up, voice concerns about their work, and admit when they need help.

In research cited by Harvard Business School, it was found that “psychologically safe employees are more interested in learning, excellence, and genuinely connecting with others than in looking good.” Therefore, by affording your team a workplace that allows them to feel psychologically safe through vulnerability, you are rewarded with stronger work performance and motivated employees. 

Leave saving the world to Superman. Your job as a leader is to create a work environment that allows for constructive transparency and vulnerability. 

Embracing our imperfections improves business performance

At Pierlite, we focus on empowering our team and supporting imperfection rather than ignoring or penalising people’s limitations. Pierlite values the fact that each of us carries weaknesses, which enables greater transparency and allows us to win and soar as a business. How? Because the more transparent we are about our imperfections, the more comfortable we are asking for help. 

Helping others can boost our oxytocin levels, which lifts our mood and self-esteem, as well as potentially lowering blood pressure. When oxytocin increases, so does serotonin and dopamine, which can help us feel happier overall. Not only is this highly beneficial for your team members, but employee happiness also results in a stronger business.

A study by Oxford University concluded that happy workers are 13% more productive and have higher sales conversion rates. Similarly, the University of Warwick found that positive emotions in the workplace are correlated with increased innovation, enhanced memory, and improved work performance. 

Imperfection is the glue between team members. As soon as someone makes the cracks in their perfect image visible, people tend to act as glue and are eager to help. I refer to this as the “culture glue” that strengthens our team’s bond. As CEO, I ask for help all the time. Letting people help you is the start of strong team alignment. By admitting that I am not perfect in all areas and need help from others to achieve my goals, I am breaking down the barrier between my team and I by allowing them to feel valued and important. 

There’s a Chinese proverb that goes, “if you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody.” People love to help, it’s human nature! The rewards of helping others are backed by studies showing that altruistic acts lead to greater wellbeing, health, and happiness. Some people love helping others so much that they experience helper’s high, which is associated with improved health and increased longevity. It’s clear that we can all benefit from each other by being open about our weaknesses and when we need help. Therefore, by embracing our imperfections in the workplace, we also promote teamwork through collaboration and a stronger sense of rapport. 

Have you been guilty of hiding your imperfections and not wanting to admit you need help? Did you ever want to be an indestructible superhero when you were younger? Or perhaps you idolised your parents, a teacher, or a celebrity before you grew up to realise that they’re not superheroes, they’re just like you. Whether you looked up to your mother, grandfather or even Superman, I’d love to hear all about your experiences of growing up and realising that it’s ok to not be perfect! Share your story in the comments below.