There are no perfect leaders, only individuals put in positions of authority who pretend to be perfect and those who refuse to admit that they are imperfect. But true leaders have chinks in their armor. They have weaknesses, shortcomings, and they don’t know it all. Just as important, they admit their faults and failures.
Realistically speaking though, there is this common notion that admitting mistakes is a sign of weakness and telling people you messed up corrodes credibility. That notion is completely false because acknowledging slip-ups is actually a sign of strength, which means you should never hesitate to do so.
However, admitting a negative isn’t always the easiest task to accomplish, more so if you have to do it in front of your employees or subordinates. But as previously stated in ‘What It Means to Be an ADEPT Leader’, you must be humble enough “to understand that there is always something to be learned.” It is this humility that will allow leaders to take full responsibility not only of the good but also of the bad.
Acknowledging mistakes and weaknesses can be liberating, but more than that, it can be truly empowering, especially to your employees. Harvard Business Review suggests being accountable sows the seeds of engagement because people trust leaders who admit their error and does something to rectify it, as opposed to those who refuse to admit that something is amiss. Coming clean also shows the vulnerability, and by extension, humanity of leaders which makes them more relatable. It is an indirect way of saying, “I’m part of the group,” and it will be appreciated greatly by employees, who will be more engaged at work knowing that their leader is “one of them.”
Taking full responsibility also builds a culture of trust, which is crucial to any team or workforce. Leaders can delegate tasks freely, knowing that everyone can do what is expected of them. Employees who trust their leaders, on the other hand, will give their very best because they’re cognizant that their leader is willing to learn and get better with the group.
When admitting a slip-up, though, it is imperative that you are as honest as possible. Tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth, even though it is often tempting to minimize your faults or to deflect some of the blame. Doing the latter is actually counterproductive, as Forbes points out that your best people will always sense your ruse. Moreover, giving what is called ‘faux failure’ deprives you of the opportunity for self-reflection and personal growth. Think about this: How will you get better if you keep on lying to yourself? The simple answer is you won’t.
Of course, this is not to say that you should go around the office telling everyone about that time when you messed up a big project. Instead, you should be willing and ready to face the music when the situation calls for it – preferably in an intimate setting where you and your subordinates can talk openly with one another.
A submission exclusive for AdeptLeadership.com