Is It Possible for a Leader to Go Overboard? : John Mattone Global, Inc.

Some leaders care so much for their employees that they can’t bring themselves to criticize them or hold them accountable. However, excessive caring can rob employees of the benefits of solid leadership coaching and motivation.

Leaders can go overboard in how they exercise their attributes. Perfectionism is one such pitfall. To do their best work, perfectionists go overboard and adopt counterproductive behaviors like micromanagement. They take on too much work and disempower team members, contributing to disengagement and turnover. They can also burn out and derail in the process.


Perfectionism hamstrings good leaders. 

Perfectionism is a constant source of stress.  Perfectionists must move goalposts all the time because no one can achieve perfection. The resulting self-judgment gives birth to toxic and contagious attitudes.

As a leadership coaching professional, I recognize perfectionism as a widespread problem that robs leaders of their potential and performance. Executive coaching understands leaders can go overboard through perfectionism without realizing they’ve done so. Coaching has also devised ways to help leaders avoid the lure and destructive forces of perfectionism.

  • Focusing on genuine humility. Humble leadership means leading from a position of generosity rather than narcissism. Humble leaders are self-aware and never fail to consider others’ opinions.
  • Leadership maturity. Mature leaders understand the place of lifelong learning and continued improvement in the grand scheme of leadership. They commit to learning from mistakes and see failures as steppingstones to success.
  • Showing vulnerability. This allows leaders to connect with team members on profoundly human levels. Vulnerable leaders know and admit they don’t have all the answers. They let others know they need help and value their contributions.
  • Displaying curiosity. Leadership curiosity is the foundation of continued improvement. Curious leaders constantly seek new ideas and experiences. They readily leave their comfort zones and act as agents of change.

Leadership may require attention to detail and commitment to quality, but it doesn’t require perfectionism in any form. Being too absorbed in the work one does can get in the way of completing tasks.

Can Leaders Care Too Much About People?

Under normal circumstances, leaders cannot care “too much” about people. Caring is a positive leadership quality, but there are ways to hijack this and twist it into an excuse to avoid difficult discussions or decisions.

Leaders must coach reports and hold them accountable. Accountability is a part of the leadership journey that no one can avoid. Some leaders may “care too much” to hold employees accountable or give them constructive feedback. I would argue that such “caring” is destructive.

Leaders who truly care know they may have to make difficult decisions that can hurt employees in the short term. However, just like a parent willing to cause short-term pain to a child by removing a splinter, leaders must be willing to inflict short-term pain for the sake of long-term benefits. Just like parents, leaders must hold employees accountable and give them honest feedback.

Business coaching favors optimal decision-making over personal favors and senseless sacrifices. It teaches leaders how to make quick decisions even if they entail painful consequences.

How Caring Can Derail Leadership

Many of us have dealt with bad leadership. Some of us may have even experienced working for leaders who cared too much.

From the perspective of leadership coaching, intelligent leaders are inspirational. In many ways, they may act as role models for their younger employees and play significant roles in shaping reports’ leadership abilities.


Development requires a clear direction. 

An overly caring leader fails to provide reports with a base ingredient of inspiration: clear direction. Without a clear direction, developing leaders can derail. If their mentors don’t impose course corrections on them, they’ll acquire poor habits and develop counterproductive leadership behaviors. One should question the quality of “caring” if it results in derailing personalities or strong levels of despair.

Those who truly care take the time to motivate, nurture, and coach. They bring up leaders the way a caring parent raises successful children.

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