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Kind Leaders Apologize!

When was the last time you apologized to the people who follow you?

Many years ago I was leading a continuous improvement event at a large multinational corporation. After the first day, people were arguing and butting heads…and a contingent marched into the Vice President's office to complain. Instead of chastising the group, the Vice President did something totally unexpected…and something I had never experienced before. They apologized. They said that they hadn’t been clear enough about their expectations and the Target, so now we were all arguing and wasting our time.

That story has stuck with me and influenced me for so many years because:

  1. I had never experienced a leader apologizing before!

  2. I realized, in that moment, how much influence on others’ behavior a leader’s behavior has.

No one is perfect. Neither leaders nor the people who follow them.

Everyone makes mistakes, and everyone misses living up to the standards they set for themselves sometimes.

As a leader, when people see you model the behaviors of reflecting on your own actions, accepting that you made a mistake, apologizing and fixing the mistake, they learn how to do the same. At work, and at home. And they learn that it’s okay not to be perfect, and to apologize, pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and go forward in a better way.

When leaders admit their own mistakes, apologize and model kindness it creates trust and an atmosphere that allows people the space to try…without worry about being perfect!

Apologizing is hard. It means admitting that you aren't perfect. And leaders are supposed to be perfect - all knowing, always right! - aren't they? But before leaders are anything else, they are people. And no one is perfect. Everyone makes mistakes and everyone can model the behavior of apologizing and fixing their mistake!

Who will. you apologize to today?

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