Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management

Why we trust leaders who admit their mistakes

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Guest post by Steven J. Stowell Ph.D. 

Anyone in a leadership position knows that mistakes are inevitable.

They can hit at any time and it may not even be a direct result of your actions. But there is one mistake that is worse than the actual mishap.

If you want to dig a deeper hole for yourself then refuse to admit to your mistakes.

Mountain climbing

You can take the route of blaming someone else for the outcome of your decisions and deny accountability until someone else finds their head on the chopping block. Anyone but you, right?

Or – and this is a big or – maybe you could take responsibility for the blunder and ask for the assistance of your team members to remedy the situation.

So, why is failing to admit to mistakes so harmful to leadership? And what can you gain for owning up to the fault?

Deflating Your Ego

Too many leaders let their oversized egos get in the way of doing what is best for the people and companies they serve.

It can be hard, even painful, to ignore a bloated ego. But the results are often well worth the effort.

It’s difficult to respect a leader that cannot admit to their mistakes. And when the people you are trying to lead have lost respect for you, it’s even harder to encourage the performance that your organization needs.

When leaders are open about their mistakes, they can cultivate trust and transparency with their employees as they seek to move forward in a way that benefits the company.

The Safety Element

In the TED Talk, “Why Good Leaders Make You Feel Safe,” leadership expert Simon Sinek examines the impact that feelings of security have on employees in the workplace.

In his presentation, Sinek explains that when employees feel safe inside an organization they are more likely to use their talents and abilities to support their leaders. When there is a lack of security, employees are forced to expend energy to protect themselves and this leads to an inevitable weakening of the organization.

When leaders are willing to admit to their mistakes they enhance feelings of security in the workplace. Employees are no longer afraid of being blamed for other’s mistakes and they are more willing to own up to their own. This transparency within an organization is extremely beneficial when it comes to effective communication and problem solving.

Becoming Human

Leaders that excel at the team building process understand that the members of their organization are human – and they need to embrace their human flaws if they want to connect with them.

Keeping the lines of communication open with honest exchanges is a critical part of making yourself accessible and approachable. Holding yourself accountable to the people in your organization is key to building engagement and succeeding as a leader.

When it comes down to it, who are you going to trust? The leader who admits to their errors or the person who lives in denial?

Headshot-StowellSteven J. Stowell Ph.D. is the Co-Founder of the Center for Management and Organization Effectiveness, Inc (CMOE). The Center was created in 1978 specializing in leadership development and team building, for the purpose of helping individuals and teams maximize their effectiveness and competitiveness. Steven’s special interests lie in strategic management, creating effective relationships, strategic thinking, and transforming traditional organizations into high performance systems.”


The Product Management Perspective: A key concept for product managers is that leadership is a choice. Once you decide to lead your options open up immeasurably. Just like the CEO of an organization, you have the ability to make the people you work with feel more secure by listening to them, removing work barriers and providing clear direction.

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2 thoughts on “Why we trust leaders who admit their mistakes

  1. Pingback: Why we trust leaders who admit their mistakes | HENRY KOTULA

  2. Pingback: The Elephant in the Room: What's in Store for the News Media

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