Leadership Lessons to Live By: Mistakes Are Okay. Hiding Isn’t.

If you’re a leader, you’re going to blow it sometimes. Just expect it. Chances are, you’ve probably already blown it a few times. It doesn’t really matter how big it was, what it was, or who caused it, mistakes happen. It’s human. It’s reality. So how do you handle mistakes as a leader?

The way you handle mistakes is important.

You must remember that when you make a mistake, all is not lost. In fact, a mistake is an opportunity to improve. The mistake is the valley, but there is a mountain to climb. A mistake allows you to improve. That’s why the fallout from the mistake is just as important as the mistake itself. Sure, the mistake happened. It’s bad news. But it’s over., The way you handle the mistake is very important.

Which brings us to the obvious issue…

How to Handle Mistakes

  1. Never hide your mistakes. Do not, under any circumstances, cover up mistakes. In fact, the bigger the mistake, the more important it is to get it out in the open. A single mistake on your part can damage a lot of people. As explained above, the recovery from the mistake is important. However, in order for recovery to happen, the mistake must be out in the open. Don’t ever, ever, ever hide a mistake. Just don’t.
  2. Admit your mistakes. Instead, you should openly admit your mistake. The value of admitting mistakes is explained below, but the most obvious benefit is that of honesty. As Christians, we should “take pains to have a clear conscience toward both God and man” (Acts 24:16). A cover-up may seem like the easy way out, but it is never the right thing to do.
The idea is pretty simple.  Mistakes are okay. Hiding isn’t.

Why Admit Your Mistakes?

Admitting one’s mistakes may be painful, but it is beneficial to you personally and to your organization as a whole. Consider the upsides.

  • When you admit your mistakes, others will feel free to admit theirs. When a leader makes a move towards greater transparency, others will follow. By airing your own mistakes, you give the green light for others to be open about theirs. When mistakes are brought into the open, action can be taken to fix them. In this way, your organization can take a huge step forward.
  • When you admit your mistakes, you create a culture of authenticity and openness. Every leader wants an organization that is characterized by teamwork and camaraderie. These are traits of every successful organization, but they can only be in place if there is first a culture of honesty and openness  Frank admission of one’s faults is the first and most essential step toward creating such a culture. It depends upon the leader to make it happen.
  • When you admit your mistakes, everyone will know how to move forward. A mistake requires a clear set of next steps. What will you do? How will you move forward? What will the organization do to recover? When a mistake happens — even a big mistake — it gives the organization a chance to move forward as one body. Mistakes provide momentum.
  • When you admit your mistakes, you are humbled in an appropriate way. Leaders need humility. It is, in fact, essential for a leader to be a humble person. Mistakes do just that — they humble the leader. And that’s a good thing. Obviously, it’s absurd to try to make mistakes, or to be careless in one’s work. But when a mistake does happen, it’s okay to own up to it and recognize your limitations.

Mistake. Admit. Succeed.

Recovering from mistakes is not easy. But thankfully, the rule for responding to mistakes is straighftorward. Admit your mistake. Then, formulate a plan for success.


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