When Should a Leader Apologize, and When Not to?



Whenever a person has done something wrong to someone, whether intentionally or unintentionally, that person should apologize. A simple “I’m sorry” would usually suffice. It is both a good manner and characteristic to apologize when appropriate. However, circumstances change and so do our perspectives as we move up the corporate ladder.


There are different considerations when we become leaders. Not only a leader is accountable for his own actions but also the team’s. There will be times when we are obliged to act on behalf of the team. A leader is responsible for the team and lead the way to solve all the relevant issues.


There are situations when mistakes happen, and leaders may need to apologize. This is not easy. There will be no exact time or place to make an apology - you have to always be ready. And it is not as simple as saying “I’m sorry” - you may need to be accountable for it, especially for issues that can affect the reputation of your team and your organization.. On the other hand, being overly apologetic projects the image of being weak and gullible. It is necessary to understand and analyze the situation first before taking all the blames and apologizing publicly. Or else it will be a sign of weakness and the competitors may take advantage of it. However, it is worth noting that apologizing does not lessen your authority nor weaken your position. A good leader knows when to apologize and when to let go.


When You or Your Employee Made a Mistake

Mistakes are inevitable. Some common examples could include not updating the company’s schedule in time, not sending an email at a right timing or giving your employees the wrong lead. There will be mistakes that have to be accountable for and corrected immediately. Leaders need to own up and stand up for your employees. This is when you need to apologize as a leader and do not blame them on to the staff. The recent apology of NUH CEO on behalf of the A&E team was a good example.


When You Made a Wrong Decision

A leader is by no means a perfect person. We may have made some mistakes that could have negatively affected the team and the company . As a responsible leader, you have to own up to your decisions and actions. Do apologize and be committed to improve; take the mistakes as a way of building your experience.


Why Should a Leader Apologize?

Apologizing does have some positive impacts in organizations. It could help keep the team or organization calm and united. The following are some of the reasons why a leader may need to consider apologizing.


It shows Responsibility to your Team.

Mistakes can create confusions thereby causing instability within the team or the organization. So, owning up to the mistake quickly can show your responsibility and your acknowledgment of the mistake. This sets a good role model as a leader -


It Opens up Communication

A leader is often mistaken to be a person who is unapproachable or practicing micromanagement of day-to-day tasks.. Apologizing shows that you are open for communication on work issues that will improve workplace’s efficiency and effectiveness.. It helps build your leadership charisma.


Relieves and Lessens Stress Within the Team

Stress could build up in the team and mistakes happen frequently due to heavy workloads and tight deadlines. With pressure and stress, it could adversely affect the working atmosphere. So, by quickly apologizing for the misunderstanding, you can help lessen the tension and, in turn, avoid further conflicts.


How Should a Leader Apologize?


Leaders should not apologize overly frequently. But when they do, they do it properly and sincerely. There are proper ways and manners. You do not simply say sorry casually or insincerely. A good leader makes his peers understand and gains their trust once again.

These are some basic knowledge and skills that a leader have to master when apologizing to his team.


Confront the Issue

When things inside your company go out of control, you do not take them casually. As a leader, you must take the lead to confront the issues. A leader should be the first person to lead the way for rectification as soon as possible.


Admit the Mistake

In apologizing, you do not simply say you are sorry and forget about it- you admit the things you did wrong and then apologize sincerely for doing it. Be specific of the mistakes that you have done. In this way, your followers will respect you even more.


In summary

Apologizing is not necessarily a bad move that you should avoid. People find their leaders more trustworthy when they admit mistakes and do not blame others. Defending and justifying the actions may not necessarily a leader’s only way to solve a problem. A great leader always takes responsibilities and accountabilities. So, learn to be a great leader NOW!

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