How Leaders Deal with Being Wrong
Getting something wrong sucks. Don’t you agree?
When you’re the leader, it can really suck because your mistake can affect so many others. Mistakes don’t care who they affect. That’s something people do - especially leaders.
Types of Leaders that Make Mistakes
In my nearly forty-years of leadership experience, I’ve met 3 types of leaders that deal with getting it wrong in very different ways. They are:
1. The bad leaders who think they never get it wrong and it’s nearly always someone else’s fault
2. The average leaders who make mistakes, but try to hide them instead of fixing them
3. Good leaders who know they can’t be infallible, admit their mistakes, learn from them, and turn mistakes into success
Being wrong does suck. So does admitting it – at least for the leader who made the mistake. The admission has the initial impact of making you feel terrible deep down.
For me, my stomach aches. I feel nauseous. My heart pounds incredibly hard. My blood pressure goes sky high.
Because of my anxiety disorder, I also get overcome with an uncontrollable fear, even if the mistake really doesn’t hurt anyone. I truly fear getting it wrong.
How a Leader Can Recover Quickly Even from Deadly Mistakes
In U.S. Navy as a commanding officer, I was held responsible and accountable for every mistake anyone made in squadron. At times, it left me feeling like there was no help for me.
Nevertheless, when mistakes of any caliber large or small occurred, I took the blame for it.
Next, to turn things around, I looked for ways to convert failure to success. Then seek ways to ensure the events leading to the failure didn’t get repeated.
It’s common that a leader doesn’t get the time to immediately review what went wrong. You’ll often get tasked to keep the mission going as a priority. That’s why I list finding ways to turn losses into wins as the first step.
Successfully Righting the Wrong
Correcting the errors, regardless of how egregious they may be, involves eliminating the speculation and focusing on facts.
News media loves to speculate with incomplete information. It creates fear and attracts attention.
This is exactly why leaders can’t do this. Here’s some steps to getting the best fix for the worst mistakes:
Notify the people in your company, team or organization quickly of the error. This way you get their help and, if they are doing anything similar, they can stop before it’s too late.
Go straight to the source of the error. Do this initially yourself if you can, and then pick a highly trusted, dependable person to find the underlying cause of the problem.
If the mistake is costly in money, time, or people, find a way to stop it dead. This can only be done with facts, not speculation.
If a clear picture of what happened can’t be reached quickly and the mistake is costly, you must stop whatever event led up the error until you can review it closely.
Look first at the decisions you made as a leader that may have led directly to the problem created.
Identify the points in the chain that weakened or broke, so you know what to do to prevent it again as the mission continues.
Face your leaders with the facts. Accept the blame without pointing fingers at others. Then take action to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
Keep your leaders updated as progress is made fixing the causes and moving ahead.
Sure, there can be variance to this. However, if you apply these essential steps, you can turn even the most egregious errors into future amazing success – and do it legitimately while earning greater respect from others.
To get more on the 7 principles of leadership I consider key, grab the first 3 chapters of my book, Overpower Oceans, for free. Simply click the button or link below.
International speaker, author, and entrepreneur. Retired navy officer, former commanding officer. Over 35 years of leading, coaching, mentoring, and speaking.