How Do Leaders Respond When Things Go Wrong?
Updated: Sep 6
Being a leader is not for the faint of heart.
Leadership involves calculating risk and making decisions, often when the outcomes are uncertain. Inevitably, there will be times when the results don’t turn out as you had anticipated.
And when you’re a leader, it feels like the whole world sees and fixates on such mistakes. Angry emails flood your inbox and suddenly everyone has forgotten about all the good things you have done. You may feel very misunderstood and that no one appreciates the complexity of your job.
It’s exhausting at best and demoralizing at worst.
That you made a mistake is not the issue. That’s an expected part of being human.
It’s how you respond when that happens that sets the stage for what happens next.
When mistakes happen, it’s natural for others to question you. Is this a sign of things to come? Can you fix it? Do you have their best interest at heart? Do you care about how the mistake impacted others – your employees and customers?
In other words, are you trustworthy?
It’s very tempting to deny, deflect, or minimize mistakes when they happen. These are defensive reactions that protect the ego and can feel as natural as breathing. Many of us have even been taught that admitting blame is a sign of weakness.
Giving in to these natural urges however, only exacerbates the mistrust that has now entered the room, making it more difficult to effectively lead moving forward. This is unfortunate because, if handled correctly, leadership mistakes are actually gifts wrapped in dirty paper.
Stay tuned for our next blog in which we will give you a playbook for how to respond and enhance your leadership when you make a mistake.
In the meantime, take a few moments to reflect on the following questions:
· What is my default response to learning I have made a mistake?
Take note of your thoughts, emotions, and physical responses.
· What fears arise within me when my errors become known?
· What is my expectation of others when mistakes are made?
· What is my leadership role when others make mistakes?