You probably have a love/hate relationship with apologies.
You appreciate it deeply when others apologize to you.
But you find it difficult to apologize to others.
And let me guess, when you do apologize, you’re tempted to explain, justify or defend your action.
Which is not really an apology at all.
Please hear this. Two of the most powerful words a leader can utter are simply “I apologize”.
One of the reasons those two words are so powerful is because we hear them so rarely from leaders.
Think back over your life. When has a leader come to you, looked you straight in the eye, and offered an unconditional apology?
Rarely is my guess. Maybe never.
So let’s change that.
5 Ways to Apologize Well in Leadership
At it’s heart, an apology is ownership. It says “I was responsible”. Whether you intended to hurt someone or mess up a situation is irrelevant.
Mature, responsible leaders know they are the problem, and they work hard to see and claim their share of anything that went wrong. They’re quick to accept blame, and even faster to assign credit to others when things go well.
These leaders know it’s not about them. It’s about the mission and the team.
So how do you apologize well in leadership?
Here are five guidelines that have helped me and that I’ve appreciated when I’ve seen them at work in other leaders: