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Courageous Leaders Don't Make Excuses. They Apologize.


Stashed in: Leadership!, Courage, Authenticity, Awesome, success, peace skills, Apologies

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"We are frequently taught that leaders, especially aspiring leaders, should hide weaknesses and mistakes. This view is flawed. It is not only good to admit you are wrong when you are; but also it can also be a powerful tool for leaders—actually increasing legitimacy and, when practiced regularly, can help to build a culture that actually increases solidarity, innovation, openness to change and many other positive features of organizational life."

Not only admit that you're wrong, but follow up by actively making things better.

That's steps 4 and 5 below:

  • I’m sorry: this is the core of a genuine apology.  “I’m sorry.” or “I apologize.”  It’s the stake in the ground to communicate that you truly regret your behavior and wish you had acted differently. No apology is complete without this.
  • Stay in the first person:  Many, perhaps most, apologies run off the rails at this point, when the apologizer shifts into the second person, e.g., “I’m sorry….you didn’t understand me.” Or “I’m sorry….you feel that way.” Suddenly, you’re no longer apologizing for your actions; you’re telling the other person that you regret their actions or feelings.  A true apology sounds like, “I’m sorry I….” or “I’m sorry we…”
  • Don’t equivocate:  Once you said what you regret about your actions or words, don’t water it down with excuses.  That can blow the whole thing.  The former manager of my apartment building once said to me, “I’m sorry we haven’t gotten back to you about your security deposit, but you have to understand we’ve got hundreds of tenants.”  I definitely didn’t feel apologized to – in fact, I felt he was telling me I was being inconsiderate to hold him accountable!  Just let the apology stand on its own. “I’m sorry we haven’t gotten back to you about your security deposit.
  • Say how you’ll fix it.  This seals the deal.  If you genuinely regret your words or actions, you’ll to commit to changing. This needs to be simple, feasible and specific. “I’m sorry we haven’t gotten back to you about your security deposit. We’ll have an answer to you by this Friday.”
  • Do it. I know some people who don’t have a hard time apologizing, but seem to have a hard time following through on their apologies. If you apologize and say you’re going to behave differently, and then don’t – it’s actually worse than not having apologized in the first place. When you don’t follow through, people question not only your courage, but also your trustworthiness.

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