What You Can Learn from How Leaders Handle Mistakes

We all make mistakes, even the best and most competent leaders and thinkers. It happens, even when we do everything we can to prevent them. But the mistakes are not so serious as what happens next. Those who are genuinely great leaders have mastered the art of dealing with errors, and we could each learn a lot from their examples. Here are some of the most important things that great leaders do and what you can learn from how they handle mistakes.

Step 1. Come clean quickly. When something has gone wrong, great leaders are the first ones to admit there is a problem. They don’t try to cover it up, they don’t blame other people, and they don’t wait to see if anyone notices. Take responsibility, even for those parts that you did not cause.

Step 2. Don’t understate the scope of the problem. Minimising the challenge does not make it any easier to tackle or solve. Belittling the situation is worse than hiding it because you are dishonest about how it could affect other people.

Step 3. Fully diagnose the problem. The more you know about what happened and why the better you will be able to devise the right solution or make the right changes in the future. Giving a solution without all the information is neither helpful nor honest, so take the time to figure out the full story before trying to implement a solution.

Step 4. Ask for feedback and input. Great leaders realise that they do not have all the answers and that others on their team have valuable insights. While you accept responsibility as a leader, you can still be open to suggestions from your team. The same is true for us all. People around you have perspectives and experiences different from yours, so do not be afraid to ask for advice or input on how to solve your challenge.

Step 5. Make sure the problem is resolved. Leaders do not rest until a resolution is found, and neither should you, significantly when your mistake affects other people. Leaders provide updates to their team when solutions are in the works. Be sure the people in your life know precisely what you are doing to help mend your errors when they are impacted.

Step 6. Help others learn from your mistakes. When problems are resolved, leaders use that opportunity to share the lessons learned with others. Leaders also want to make learning opportunities for everyone else, so they make a point to share their newfound understanding. When you see a friend struggling with a problem you have some experience with, let them know what you have learned from your mistakes, too.

Step 7. Don’t just fix the symptom. When mistakes occur, they can sometimes reveal more systemic or structural problems. When you fix only the immediate problem and not the root cause, you guarantee that something else will go wrong in the future. Take the time to set it right. This is true in business, relationships, personal growth, and everything else in life.

Step 8. Commit never to repeat your mistakes. The best way to show others that you are sincere in your efforts to fix a problem is to learn from your mistakes. Break the cycle and stop repeating behaviours or beliefs that perpetuate the problem. Actions speak louder than words; when a mistake changes you for the better, it speaks loudest of all.

Leaders get to be so because they realise that someone must be in charge and accept responsibility when things go well and when mistakes happen. The same is true for you in your own life. Be the leader of your happiness, and start handling mistakes like a boss!