Too many leaders allow their egos to stand in the way of doing what is best for the people and organizations they serve, says leadership expert Glenn Lopis for an article in Forbes.com. Leaders are not responsible for always being right. However, they are accountable to see that problems become opportunities and solutions are proactively found so that momentum is never lost.
Successful leaders are transparent enough with themselves and others to admit their wrong doings so that those around them can also benefit from their learnings. Making mistakes is such an important part of the leadership journey. To make sure you are always maturing and developing as a leader, here are four reasons leaders should admit when they make mistakes:
1. It earns respect.
People don’t expect perfection from their leaders — they just demand their unwavering attention and bold initiative. When leaders are honest about their shortfalls and can learn from their mistakes, they earn respect and along the way create an environment of transparency.
Respected leaders take the calculated risks that others won’t when they fear too much making the wrong decision and having to face the consequences. But playing it too safe fails to earn respect; what does earn respect is real leadership not afraid to change the conversation and challenge the status quo in service to the betterment of a healthier whole. Competitive advantage springs from the ability to anticipate change and then being courageous enough to act on it before circumstances force your hand — and before the opportunity passes you by.
2. Vulnerability strengthens the team.
When leaders admit to mistakes, it brings clarity to opportunity gaps and elevates a deeper sense of accountability that can be shared among the team. Everyone begins to value the importance of having each other’s back.
Vulnerability is a sign of leadership strength, yet many leaders are tentative to reveal what has traditionally been viewed as a weakness — too concerned with how they will be perceived by others. They believe it will undermine their executive presence and make them seem less authoritative. More comfortable hiding behind their title, they haven’t built the confidence to leverage their influence and put their ideas and ideals to the test. This creates a real barrier between leaders and their teams, at a time when more than ever people want to relate to their leaders as individuals and want to know that their leaders have experienced the same problems and overcome similar obstacles to get where they are today.
3. Lead by example.
When leaders are accountable for their mistakes, they are leading by example. This elevates employee engagement to a point where leaders — by giving them permission not to fear making the wrong decision — are empowering employees to take more initiative, knowing that they’re not always going to have the right answer.
Great leaders do not hesitate to make the difficult decisions and lead by example by putting themselves on the frontlines of change. They gravitate toward what others may see as a “leap of faith” and willingly accept the challenge inherent in any problem because they see the opportunity. Facing the risk and potential obstacles along the way, they readily take on the responsibility, admit their mistakes if they fail, and learn from the experience.
4. Build a culture of trust.
When leaders admit to making mistakes — creating an opportunity to earn respect, strengthen their teams and lead by example — it ultimately builds a culture of trust. A workplace culture that promotes trust allows employees to live with an entrepreneurial attitude, which stimulates innovation and initiative.
People are tired of surprises in the workplace and a culture of trust promotes greater alignment and clarity of thought. With each decision made or new relationship cultivated, employees want to know they are operating in a workplace environment that puts a premium on truth and transparency. This means leaders who are not only open about sharing where the company is headed, but are trusted to steer its future and secure its legacy.
With mistakes come key learnings. With each key learning comes more experience. With experience comes the greater ability to identify opportunity. Opportunities seized rightly can be the ultimate game changer and a leader’s platform to advance their career, their organization and the industry they serve.