The Mindful Leadership Blog

Just In! True Leaders Know How to Apologize

May 17th, 2018

What’s hot?

You blew a critical deadline, blew a big sale, or blew up at a colleague. It happens. The question is: what do genuine leaders do when it happens?  According to a study by the Forum Corp, only 19% of leaders apologize because they fear they will look weak or incompetent. However, the reality is quite the opposite.










So what?

A study published in the “Journal of Business Ethics” revealed that leaders who apologize for their mistakes are actually perceived as stronger and more inspirational than those who don’t.

What to do?

The power of an apology is derived from the way it is delivered. Apologize using the 3 R’s:

  1. Regret. Express your regret. If you limit your apology to “I’m sorry”, you are keeping the focus on you. Instead express regret for what the other person experienced. Examples:
    1. I regret that I embarrassed you during our staff meeting.
    2. I apologize for letting you down. 
    3. I’m sorry. I should have stood up for you.
  2. Responsibility. Don’t defend your actions. Own that you were wrong and the weight of your mistake. Examples:
    1. I should have let you know ahead of time that I was not going to make the deadline. I put you in a bad spot with the VP when I didn’t come through with my report.
    2. I didn’t prepare as well as I could for that sales call and as a result we lost the opportunity to sell to the XYZ company.
    3. I lost it at the staff meeting and lashed out at you instead of engaging you in problem-solving by listening to what you wanted to say.
  3. Remedy. The best remedy is to promise that it won’t happen again. If you don’t feel confident making a promise – you are human and know your limitations – you can make a pledge that you will do everything you can to ensure it doesn’t happen again. An excellent remedy is to ask the offended party “What can I do to make things right?” .

Don’t assume a simple “I’m sorry” will suffice. It admits no responsibility. It’s not comfortable to admit an error, or to acknowledge that something you’ve done has caused others harm, embarrassment or inconvenience. However, when you truly apologize, you are demonstrating leadership by putting honesty, commitment and integrity above personal comfort or self-protection.

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