Career & Jobs

5 Reasons Why The Best Leaders Do This When They Make A Mistake

When was the last time you screwed up?

Making mistakes is universal, as is our reaction when we discover we’ve made one. Our pulse quickens, palms sweat, and mouths dry up. We fight off a wave of nausea while considering our options and what to do next: Hope no one notices the flub? Seek refuge out until it blows over? Pretend it never happened?

The finest leaders understand that hope is not a strategy, and taking timely action trumps passivity or avoidance.

They know the best thing to do when you make a mistake is to be accountable and own it immediately. Here are five reasons why:

1. You’ll avoid misunderstandings.

The benefit of immediate accountability is that you can have clear and open communication about what went wrong and why. If you wait to acknowledge the blunder, it will take on a life of its own and may become harder to rectify. But hearing directly from you about your mishap helps diffuse any rumors or miscommunication that could arise and helps you fix the error quickly.

2. It showcases your true leadership colors.

When you take responsibility for your mistakes, you send a clear message to others about your character, integrity, and authenticity. You also demonstrate intellectual humility, or the willingness to recognize that what you think and believe might be wrong. And research shows that leaders with intellectual humility have an advantage over those who rely upon ego and power, gaining influence and earning others’ respect and loyalty.

3. You’ll learn from your mistakes instead of repeating them.

The savviest leaders understand that “failure” is essential to success because it provides an opportunity to learn something new. Therefore, they no longer worry about being wrong and instead delight in expanding their knowledge, so they’re better informed and prepared for the next time. Remember, you’re doomed to repeat a mistake and can’t learn from it unless you first acknowledge it.

4. It demonstrates your vulnerability—and strength.

Despite what you may have been led to believe, vulnerable leaders are strong leaders. It takes courage to admit when you’ve screwed up and face possible judgment and ridicule. Dr. Brené Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston who has spent two decades studying courage and vulnerability, advocates that leaders “embrace the suck” that is vulnerability and admit when they’ve made a mistake. Insecure leaders try to minimize their exposure by covering up their mistakes; confident leaders aren’t afraid to own them.

5. It signals to others that you’re human—and they can be, too.

News flash: all leaders make mistakes because all leaders are human. But not all leaders are willing to admit to it for fear of looking incompetent. Leaders who own up to their shortcomings signal that theirs is a culture in which it’s okay to be imperfectly human. And when leaders model this behavior, they create a more open and collaborative culture where others are encouraged to share their ideas without fear of ridicule.

Remember, to err is human; to be accountable for that mistake is leadership.

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