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Admitting Mistakes

You will feel uncomfortable and vulnerable when admitting a mistake, but you get to learn from it and grow as a person, and send a very powerful message to the stakeholders.

Trying something new

“Why not? I only live once and I owe it to myself to live life to its fullest. I should experience as many things as I possibly can to enrich my life.”

That was the last thing on my mind before I went ahead and tried doing something new recently. To be honest, I was not really adventurous- I was more curious than adventurous and either way, I went ahead and did it.

I felt empowered and in control of my life immediately after completing it. I also felt proud that I have decided to proceed with the matter as I needed courage to convince myself.

All my pleasant feelings diminished the moment I got home. After I had shared my experience, my family members started making me feel uncomfortable- they made fun of me and even criticised my decision.

They went on for a few days. Throughout those few days, I was steadfast and defended my decision. I explained my rationale but it did not matter to them. They concluded that I should not have done it.

After reflecting on the matter for a few days, I came to realise that they were right- I should not have done it. They immediately empathised with me the moment I shared my realisation with them. The mocking also stopped.

The realisation made me feel at ease and peaceful. That was the easy part. The immediate challenge for me thereon was fixing it (could not undo completely so rectifying it was the only option). My family started becoming more compassionate towards me and they offered me support. I felt grateful and appreciative of their support, and I no longer felt alone after proceeding with my supposed “wrong” decision.

Linking my recent experience with leadership

Leaders do not have things easy. They need to constantly inspire and lead people, think out-of-the-box when faced with challenges, forward looking to anticipate opportunities, etc. It is common and not unusual for leaders to take risks when running their organisations. Sometimes they have to try new things and take the road less travelled to stay ahead of the competition, which takes guts. But very often leaders get criticised for making decisions and taking actions especially when the outcome is unfavourable.

No leader wants to be wrong or make mistakes. And when they are criticised for making decisions and taking actions, they will defend themselves and their position as their competency, credibility and professionalism is questioned and at stake. Sometimes the harder they defend themselves, the more bullets will be fired at them. As a result, leaders try to protect their position by passing the buck and getting prior approval from top management and/or the board before they proceed. They commonly include disclaimers etc in their presentation and proposal, and once approval is obtained from top management and/or the board, they would have discharged their duties and responsibilities.

Suppose leaders accept the criticism, admit their mistake and take responsibility when things do not go according to plan (even after the matter has been considered and approved by top management and/or the board), how would they be viewed and treated differently by the stakeholders?

Leaders must be humble enough to admit their mistakes

“The sign of a superior leader is not that they avoid making mistakes; it is that when they do, they are humble enough to admit it and learn from them.” ~ Steve Adubato, Ph.D.

Leaders must have the ability and willingness to admit their mistakes. Although many people may see admitting a mistake as a sign of weakness, the opposite is true in many instances. Mistakes spark growth in us and as such there is no shame in making mistakes.

When things go wrong and leaders admit their mistakes, they send a very powerful message to the stakeholders- they are responsible, they are trustworthy, they inspire with humility and they are bold in making decisions and taking actions. When leaders admit their mistakes, their vulnerability will help to strengthen their relationship with the stakeholders. 

Final words

Admitting a mistake (just like I did) does not make you weak. It does not make you strong either. You will feel uncomfortable and vulnerable when admitting a mistake, but you get to learn from it and grow as a person. The best part of admitting a mistake is that you end up sending a very powerful message to the stakeholders.


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