All leaders make mistakes. To be human means to mess up once in a while. But the difference between good leaders and great ones lies in how they handle those mistakes.
What are you modeling to those around you when you make a mistake? Your team will be watching, and what they see will affect their relationship with you and the level of trust they hold for you, so it's important to get it right. Here are four simple but impressive ways you can demonstrate great leadership when you make a mistake:
1. Acknowledge your mistakes.
Never try to cover up or blame others for what went wrong. If you messed up, admit it and own it. It doesn't have to be a big deal--simply acknowledge your responsibility and move on. Insecure leaders may be afraid of looking weak, but not admitting their mistake makes them look worse and costs them respect. I believe that in leadership, vulnerability is the ultimate strength. Admitting your mistakes earns you the respect of those you lead and makes your leadership human.
2. Learn from your mistakes.
Once you learn from your mistakes, don't repeat them. As the old saying goes, when you repeat a mistake it is not a mistake anymore but a decision. The nature of great leadership lies in accepting risks, trying new things, and taking big chances, looking for the limits of what's possible. And the best leaders know creativity often means breaking rules, making mistakes and learning along the way. Mistakes are among the greatest teachers, and working to understand your mistakes is one of the best forms of self-education. Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes; leadership is learning from them.
3. Teach others from your mistakes.
The times in our lives when we feel we have the least power can actually be the times we have the most--when we can affirm or redefine who we are and what we believe, and make choices that help others benefit from our experiences, good and bad. When you make mistakes, make a point of teaching others what you've learned. Doing so builds connection and trust. The best leaders are the great teachers, coaches, and guides who show us the way after they have been down that path.
4. Move beyond your mistakes.
Success is connected with action. Successful people keep moving; they make mistakes but don't quit. Learn to use failure as a stepping stone away from the past. You don't forget your mistake, but you don't dwell on it or let it get you down. Get up and keep moving.
Like all of us, you're bound to make mistakes. But when you handle them well, they can help you be a better leader and a better person.