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You’re Not a Leader if You Never Say You’re Sorry

You are not a good leader if you never tell people you are sorry. There are a myriad of issues in the heart of a leader who never apologizes. If you never apologize, at least one of the following is also true:

You reveal you think you are infallible.

If you never apologize, if you never say, “I was wrong,” you show people you actually believe you are always right. You reveal your foolishness, not your wisdom, if you never admit to being wrong. People are hesitant, as they should be, to follow someone who thinks he/she is always right. There is only One who is faultless, and it is not you.

You are never having difficult conversations.

If you never need to look at someone on your team and say, “I am sorry, but …” then you are ignoring difficult conversations that would make the person and the team stronger. If you talk about people instead of to people, you are not a good leader. If you work around deficiencies instead of confronting them and providing opportunities for growth, you are shirking your responsibility.

You are afraid of making mistakes.

If you take risks and try new things, you will make mistakes. And wise leaders own those mistakes and learn from them. If you hate saying you are sorry, if you hate ever being wrong, you will be much more risk adverse and unwilling to try new things to advance the mission.

You are never repenting.

Most importantly, a leader who never apologizes is a leader who is not repenting. Great leaders repent. Tertullian said, “We were born for nothing but repentance.” The first of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses is “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ‘Repent’ (Matthew 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.” If you never admit your wrongs and ask for forgiveness, you have an elevated view of your holiness and a woefully incomplete view of His.  

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Eric Geiger is the Senior Pastor of Mariners Church in Irvine, California. Before moving to Southern California, he served as senior vice-president for LifeWay Christian. Eric received his doctorate in leadership and church ministry from Southern Seminary and has authored or co-authored several books, including the best selling church leadership book, Simple Church. He is married to Kaye, and they have two daughters: Eden and Evie. During his free time, Eric enjoys dating his wife, taking his daughters to the beach, and playing basketball.