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Should a Leader Admit Failure?

Do you ever fail?  Do you admit it when you do?  Should you?

I think it is critical for leaders to admit failure when it happens.  Many people try cover over mistakes and pretend they didn’t happen.  Others try to shrug off missteps as things that happen to everyone. While doing so might seem harmless, there are many good reasons why you should admit it when you’ve messed up.

Here are 4 good reasons why I believe a leader should admit failure!

  1. To connect with your team.  While it’s true that employees won’t want to discuss their own failures, they are more likely to connect with leaders who admit to theirs. Even if the specific failure isn’t applicable to them, simply talking about it helps you connect.
  1. To learn.  Failure is only positive when you learn something important from it and make the necessary adjustments. If you don’t do this, you cannot learn from outside perspectives and you’re more likely to stay in denial and repeat the same mistakes.
  1. To tolerate mistakes in others.  As much as leaders openly say that failure must happen for innovation to be present, many get upset at staff who fail or struggle. That attitude shuts up staff, closes down experimentation, and obliterates creativity. Set an example that failure is OK.
  1. To tolerate your future failures.  This is an easy one to skip over, but it is so important. Forgetting about your failures makes moving on so much harder when your next failure comes (and you know it will). When I run into an issue, I make a point to think back to all the failures in my life. After realizing that failure is par for the course, I find it easier to move forward and learn from the catastrophe.

Don’t be a failure hypocrite.  It only hurts your credibility as a leader and it ultimately hurts your team and your organization.  If you’re a leader, it’s time for you to open up about failure. Yes, it will be embarrassing at first, but you will learn more and watch your team — and you — grow stronger. Act now. Don’t fail at failure.