The journey towards gaining respect begins the moment we recognize our mistakes and have the integrity and fortitude to admit we were wrong.
From many years of interviewing candidates, I have learned that the key answer to the questions about “qualities” are not the ones that ask candidates to name what strengths they have to do the position well, but rather are the ones that ask them about their weaknesses. How well a candidate answers the weakness question tells you a lot about who they are and what integrity and fortitude they have as it takes strength of character to admit weakness and intelligence to identify it. It is thus the case that one of the biggest strengths people can have is the capacity to understand and recognize our own weaknesses. This self reflection and honesty about difficulties and struggles we have naturally leads onto the ability to work on and improve in or make up for weaknesses, a vital skill in the work place. Ownership of weaknesses and mistakes is one of the key parts of the inside out mentality.
Recognizing ones own weaknesses is one of the biggest strengths you can have.
A great leader is not an infallible machine, they are merely a fallible human being striving to perform at the best of their abilities. Performing at the best of your abilities will not come without mistakes, they are part of the process. How we deal with mistakes is however a vital part of having the correct leadership character and plays a key role in inspiring those around you. The willingness to admit your weaknesses and your vulnerabilities is very powerful in leadership when done correctly. You can gain strength by admitting your faults to yourself and your peers. When you admit it, you make it a part of what we share as information about ourselves and encourage a culture of honesty. A weakness expressed becomes a manageable challenge to overcome. You put into action a process, be that self learning and self improvement or assistance from others who may have a strength where you have weakness and have the capacity to support you in that area.
Admitting a weakness can turn a possible excuse into potential progress.
Likewise the capacity to admit you were wrong is vital in leadership. However so often in leadership inexperienced or poor managers believe that admitting they were wrong shows weakness or ineptness. The danger of that belief, especially when it is held by people in positions of power or authority, is that it backs a leader into defending their poor choices, even when they themselves may have come to recognize they were wrong. These managers often intentionally or not end up placing false blame on others in order to prove that they were right. In their minds they see this as a way to save face, or prove they are deserving of their power, or retain respect for their intelligence. Sadly, they don’t accomplish any of those things. In fact, they accomplish the exact opposite as the best employees in any organization will inevitably recognize when mistakes have been made, and they also see when a manager is covering their own tracks. They ultimately lose respect, trust, and confidence in the manager, and more often than not, they will jump ship at the first opportunity that comes along to work in a better environment.
Managers who never admit mistakes usually lose the respect of their staff.
True leaders recognize the value of taking a percentage of the blame and see mistakes as both something to be learned from and an opportunity to reconnect with team members and/or with team values. By admitting a mistake to staff, you can show yourself to be human and give you and them a chance to reconnect both emotionally and professionally. This moment of honesty in saying “you were wrong” encourages them to do the same and makes it easier to together find the win/win, third way of agreement. Likewise by being honest about the cause of the mistake you can give yourself the opportunity to lead your team towards doing things differently and better the second time around. Trust – the vital part of effective team work – doesn’t come from creating a false aura of infallibility and perfection, it rather is built from the foundation of integrity and fortitude and the capacity to say you were wrong and admit a weakness is an integral part of this. Admitting mistakes and saying “sorry i was wrong” is a strength not a weakness.
Great leaders have the capacity to turn a mistake into an opportunity.