Good Leaders Know How to Apologize

I know of an individual who thought that just because he held the title “CEO” all of his direct reports (and their direct reports) would automatically respect him. This person did not pay very much attention to how he would EARN that respect; he thought he deserved it just because of his title. There is some amount of truth to that – we do need to respect the POSITIONS in an organization, and there is a certain amount of respect automatically due a CEO. However, to earn respect at a deeper level , as a true leader, takes a bit more work than just sitting in the corner office.

I learned early in my career that CEOs, Presidents and Executive Directors all have one thing in common. They are human. Inevitably, humans make mistakes. It’s what happens AFTER someone makes a mistake that matters. In the case of the CEO I mentioned earlier, he consistently refuses to admit to any weakness, mistake or error of judgment. He goes so far as to blame others for his mistakes or misjudgments. If a project goes awry, or doesn’t bring in the intended results, he chastises the project owner, and even disavows any prior knowledge of the project, regardless of the fact that he signed off on it initially. He has created a culture of fear and mistrust. It is not a safe environment in which to admit failure of any sort. Failures are penalized. Mistakes are not tolerated. So, in an environment where mistakes are not tolerated, what happens? Well, given that all of the employees are human, again, mistakes are inevitable. In the zero tolerance environment, people turn to blaming others and to making excuses instead of apologies. People don’t own their mistakes. They have no incentive to do so, as their leader doesn’t admit his own, and punishes those who do.

On the other hand, I know a CEO who believes that an environment built on trust, understanding and encouragement is a powerful place. He apologizes for his own mistakes and encourages people to admit weakness in an attempt to strengthen them. This particular guy has little patience for the blame game, for excuses; or for “throwing others under the bus”. This culture is so much more powerful, as people know that if they make a mistake, they own it, they figure out how to fix it, and life moves on. Their leader sets the example, and all follow. It is interesting to note, that because of the willingness of these employees to admit mistakes, errors are caught much more quickly than in other organizations. Nothing is swept under the rug – so there are no worries about a problem growing ever larger because it wasn’t tackled head on. The leader of this company has a higher level of respect and credibility among his employees. Honesty and humility are two of the strongest pieces of armor in a leader’s tool kit. Take a look at yourself – how do you own your mistakes? How do you encourage others to own theirs?

I want to help you become the strongest leader you can be! Check out my episodes of Strategies to Focus and Thrive in Your Business on NE Ohio BizTV Shows.

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