When Leaders Should Admit Their Mistakes

December 29, 2022

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Overview: Admitting mistakes requires leadership vulnerability. Evolution may have programmed us to see vulnerability as a sign of weakness, but in the context of leadership, it’s a definite asset. Admitting leadership mistakes creates trust and respect, setting the foundations of a healthy organizational culture.

Leadership vulnerability is a centerpiece of intelligent leadership. From the perspective of leadership coaching, it is not a liability, but a strength.

Why would vulnerability suggest strength? While evolution has programmed us to see vulnerability as a sign of weakness, intelligent leadership teaches us otherwise. When we see leaders exhibit vulnerability, we perceive it as a sign of strength. In the context of leadership, vulnerability equals truth and courage.

When leaders admit their mistakes, they show vulnerability. Through such vulnerability, they build trust. Leadership vulnerability stands in opposition to authoritarianism and the behavior it entails.

There’s no room for vulnerability in the repertoire of an authoritarian leader. We’re all human, and no one falls for the image of invulnerability authoritarian leaders cast. An invulnerable person is an insincere one, and lack of honesty defeats trust on an elementary level.

Leaders make mistakes. We all know that. Those who admit their mistakes and show vulnerability come across as honest and constructive in their approaches to leadership. They earn the trust of their followers, and trust is the currency of intelligent leadership.

Leadership coaching sees mistake management as something similar to change management. We’re all biased towards our strengths. If we’re good at something, we like to do it as much as possible because we like to succeed. We don’t like managing our mistakes or failures nearly as much. Our shortcomings remind us of our weaknesses, which we like to avoid. Try as we might, we’ll never like failing as much as we like winning regardless of the valuable lessons failures can teach.

Executive coaching understands the leadership benefits mistake management can create. Intelligent and mature leaders know that understanding how and why they fail can be as beneficial as perfecting and fine-tuning their strengths.

Mistakes are part of the journey of leadership. Admitting them offers leaders undeniable benefits.

Earning Respect

Admitting to leadership mistakes is a double-pronged tool. On one hand, vulnerability feels like truth and earns trust. Trust is the indispensable currency of leadership. On the other hand, it feels like courage, and courage commands respect.

Leaders earn respect through courage and trust.

Some leaders believe followers expect perfection from them, but this isn’t true. They need their presence, inspiration, attention, and initiative. They need them to show direction and present them with values they can make their own.

People understand leaders take calculated risks. Risk-taking always carries the possibility of failure. Bad decisions have their consequences, but leaders can’t play it safe. Those who do aren’t acting in the best interest of their organizations and fail to earn the respect of employees.

People understand the upsides of competitive advantages. They respect leaders courageous enough to anticipate change and act on it to secure these advantages.

Strengthening the Team

When leaders admit mistakes, they demolish the walls that separate them from their teams. They create a sense of accountability that permeates organizations, removing the stigma of vulnerability and prompting people to have each others’ backs.

Exploiting the Power of the Example

Executive coaching sees leading by example as one of the fundamental tenets of intelligent leadership. When leaders are honest and admit their mistakes, they send everyone the message that the organization values honesty and sees mistakes as inevitable companions of the growth process. By doing so, they empower employees and encourage them to take the initiative.

Great leaders put themselves on the frontlines of change, adopting behaviors they want to see throughout their organizations.

Building a Company Culture on a Foundation of Trust

Honesty leads to trust, and trust is the most solid foundation upon which one can build a company culture focused on leadership coaching and development.

Mistakes create learning opportunities. Learning from mistakes leads to experience. Experienced leaders can identify opportunities faster and act on them more effectively.

Contact us to learn more about how you can join the IL Movement as a coach or how you can benefit from partnering with us to bring IL Solutions to you and your organization.

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