Why Bad Mistakes Make Good Leaders

When leaders make mistakes the gravity of it seems all the greater and the stakes higher. And women leaders often hold themselves to unrealistic standards no one could live up to. With all the decisions a leader must make in a day, it is inevitable that sometimes the wrong decision will be made. Plus, to be an effective leader you must take some risks – and they won’t all pan out.

While you can’t avoid ever making another mistake, there are recovery steps you can take to minimize the severity, move forward and strengthen your credibility.

Admit the mistake

Typically when you make a mistake you have the best of intentions in mind, but something goes awry. Ignoring the mistake, covering it up or playing the blame game rarely pays off. These tactics have the reverse effect and can cost you the respect of your employees, and future opportunities in your organization. The key is to admit the mistake and to do so quickly to the appropriate parties. Communicate with all those that will be involved in the recovery process, and make it clear that you are aware of the impact it will cause. The outcome will likely be greater trust and transparency from your team.

Share and move on

A sincere apology may be appropriate, and in most cases can stop there. Male leaders tend to be more adept at moving on after the apology than their women peers.  Women often over apologize and hold themselves back with the guilt of making the mistake. Instead, share with your team what you have learned from the mistake, and what you will do differently moving forward. There is no need to waste time agonizing over what is already done.

Ask for help

Leaders are there to guide and help their team. Why not let your team do the same for you? A mistake can be an excellent jumping off point to stimulate new ideas and corrective actions for your group. Once you ask your team for help it’s no longer about you and your error, it is about finding a solution together.

Great leaders don’t get to where they are without making several mistakes along the way. Mistakes can set you back in the short term, but it’s what you do next that will have lasting impact. A thoughtful, honest approach will build your credibility and the respect your employees, peers and higher ups have for you.