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5 Words Every Leader Must Say And Master

Do you like the taste of crow?  Crow isn’t appetizing.  It doesn’t go down your throat easily or sit well on your stomach.  It often has a terrible after-taste.  No one ever asks for an extra helping of crow.  And I have never been invited over to a person’s house to grill out crow.  Let’s face it, we do not like eating crow. 

However, here is one of the great leadership secrets – The best leaders may not enjoy eating crow, but they have developed a taste for it.  They understand that every healthy leadership diet contains a regular serving of crow.  The best leaders have learned the five words that every great leader must master – “I’m sorry.  I was wrong.”  The best leaders eat crow.

Sadly, many leaders think they lose credibility when they have to admit to they are wrong and have messed up.  They think if their team discovers they are not perfect, they will lose influence.  Actually the opposite is true.

The irony is that self-absorbed leaders are unaware that their team already knows they messed up.  By admitting you made a mistake, you are not telling anyone something they don’t already know!  They already know you made mistakes.  By not admitting the obvious you lose tremendous credibility and influence.

By not admitting mistakes, you come across as prideful, insecure, untrustworthy, selfish, and clueless.  On the other hand, by admitting your mistakes you deepen the relationships with those on your team because you’re human.  This builds credibility and influence.  It also creates an atmosphere of grace which allows your team to become risk-takers and show creativity.  They aren’t afraid to make mistakes.

So here is some advice to five leaders who need to eat some crow:

  1. President Obama, call Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and say “I’m sorry.  I was wrong.  You should keep your land.”
  2. Jim Tressel, call a news conference and say “I’m sorry.  I was wrong.  I should have notified the OSU compliance office of what I knew.”
  3. Terrelle Pryor, just say “I’m sorry.  I was wrong.  I should not have driven all those cars.”
  4. Rob Bell, produce a Nooma video and say “I’m sorry.  I was wrong.  There is a hell.”
  5. Al Gore, just say “I’m sorry.  I was wrong.  There is no such thing as global warming.”

And to my wife I need to say “I’m sorry sweetie.  I was wrong.”  She will then ask, “What are you apologizing for specifically.”  At that point I will confess one of my many wrongs.  Why?  Because I love the taste of crow.

Leaders, here is an important question and I’d love to hear your comments – When is the last time you looked at someone in your life and said, “I’m sorry.  I was wrong.”

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Brian Dodd is a church stewardship & leadership consultant. See www.briandoddonleadership.com for additional insights.