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Why Great Leaders Admit Their Mistakes

Everyone makes mistakes — even leaders.

To be human means to mess up once in a while. But the difference between good leaders and great ones lies in how they handle those mistakes.

Has it ever occur to you that as a leader, your action models to those around you?

The problem is, of course, some leaders with power or authority are more prone to have ‘error blindness’. They tend only to hear and pick out information that supports their beliefs. Sadly, it will be too late when they realise what they have done is wrong.

Remember — what goes around, comes around. Your team will be looking up to you, and what they see will affect their relationship with you and the level of trust they hold for you. Heck, your team might even mirror your behaviour, so it's crucial to get it right.

One of the ways you can tell bad good leaders from great leaders is how they admit their mistakes graciously and learn from them. Are you a good or great leader?

Build trust, one mistake at a time

When you’re working in a team, leaders often ask, “what can I do to gain trust from my team?”

With each decision made or new relationship built, your team appreciates when they know they are operating in an environment where mistakes are claimed and mined for lessons.

Admitting your mistakes can be challenging, particularly as a leader. However, leaders who embrace mistakes for the benefit of everyone’s growth build trust. Subsequently, everyone will begin to value the importance of having each other’s back.

Consider the next time you make a mistake: Trust is also another form of power, and this can be used to influence and guide others. Employees who realise their leaders attempted to cover up their mistakes will quickly lose respect for them, and it won’t be long before they start looking to follow more exceptional leaders elsewhere.

Leading By Example

Despite contrary belief from leaders of all stripes, I believe all leaders should be accountable for their mistakes.

When leaders are honest about their shortfalls, they are essentially setting an example and providing an environment where employees do not need to fear the consequences of making the wrong decisions. As a leader, you set the tone for how mistakes are handled.

With such an environment, you can empower your team to take more initiative when it comes to experimenting with something new. What others may see as a “leap of faith”, great leaders do not hesitate to put themselves on the frontline of change and accept each challenge as an opportunity.

Earn Respect From Your Team

We don’t expect perfection from our leaders — we only expect their ability to motivate, innovate and collaborate.

When leaders own up and learn from their mistakes, they earn respect and along the way, create an environment of transparency.

It’s a false idea that being wrong will make others think less of you. Unfortunately, some are too caught up being concerned with how others will perceive them. Insecure leaders may be afraid of others seeing them as a weakling but not admitting their mistake makes them look worse.

Moreover, we often forget about having a sense of vulnerability in leadership. Being honest about your mistakes not only earns you the respect of those you lead, but it alsomakes your leadership human.


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