How to Save Face When You Screw Up as a Leader

A leader is altogether different from a manager. A manager is content with passing the blame for mistakes downhill until they create adequate distance and safety for themselves. Perhaps this is a great survival tool, but it is not an honorable tactic.  A leader, on the other hand, is willing to stand and own his or her blunders. Accepting responsibility for mishaps is, in fact, one of the primary signs of great leadership. Bad decisions from a leader can bring a lot of scorn and ridicule from those who would like to be in charge. However, if the head of an organization or department is honest, straightforward and proactive, he or she can not only deflect fiery darts but can learn and grow from the experience.


Being honest about mistakes is the best policy. Trying to hide or deflect from actions that resulted in negative results only adds to the problem and makes things worse. Admitting mistakes in a positive way builds confidence among workers that the leader is not just serving self-interest, but gives high priority to the needs of the organization. When a leader comes out and confesses to making a mistake without trying to minimize the consequences, people generally have an easier time accepting the results and moving on with regular activity. However, when a cover-up is suspected, nothing else matters to most people until the truth is uncovered and the leader is exposed as a fraud. Good leadership is the result of building trust among the followers, and honesty helps to build that confidence.


Hiding from the truth can undermine a leader and cause him or her to stumble further and more severely. There seems to be something about pure truth that cleanses the stain of blunders and helps the leader to get back on track. Lies are fast runners, and usually cannot be outrun even by the fleetest of foot. Mistakes can be devastating, but they are rarely as bad as they seem. Not facing up to mistakes, however, can destroy a leader and taint the leadership of the organization for years.


The easiest way to correct a mistake and come out with the leadership intact is to face the problem head-on. This course of action can sometimes seem difficult, embarrassing or even impossible for the leader who is used to being praised on a regular basis. Sweeping actions under the rug, however, can be more devastating to a company’s leadership in the long run.

SHARE IT: LinkedIn