Knowing When to Admit Defeat

By | May 12, 2014

[May 12, 2014] Surprisingly, one of the secrets to being a successful leader means sometimes being willing to accept defeat … if the time and conditions are right for it. The best leaders know that there are circumstances when being right is not the most practicable strategy.

How can it be, one may ask, that leaders intentionally give up when they are right by what they do or plan to do? First, we need to remember that the leader’s goal is to ensure that the organizational mission is achieved and its people are properly cared for. Second, while organizational leaders themselves are a key part of the process to ensure the mission is achieved, leaders themselves are not the mission. This is a very misunderstood part of leadership.

Being right means many things, among them being the most time efficient, cost effective, and best overall for the company. This includes doing those things that are legal, moral, and ethical. The leader who does the right thing is doing so by being efficient, effective, and best for the company.

However, I propose that the most successful leaders understand the difference between being right and being successful; and they know when to admit it when another less efficient or effective methods of achieving organizational goals is acceptable. Yet, still doing what is legal, moral, and ethical.

It is difficult for many leaders to allow other costly and time-consuming methods to progress over better techniques. So why would leaders allow such a thing to happen? There are several reasons why it would be best for a leader to step out of the way and to allow other methods to move forward:

  • It allows other leaders to grow by making mistakes or by doing things inefficiently.
  • Some techniques, tactics, and procedures are best tested and failure experienced so others can see what not to do.
  • Customers may gain more, despite a temporary loss in resources by the company. This is particularly true when customer loyalty is improved.

Regardless, of the short-term disruption in the organization or loss of resources, a good leader knows when to admit that their way is not always the best in the long-term and can willingly admit defeat of their ways and plans.

[Don’t forget to “Like” the Leader Maker at our Facebook Page.]


[Note] Mike Myatt wrote a similar article called “The Most Misunderstood Aspect of Great Leadership.” In it he wrote that he believes leaders gain the most personal, professional, and enterprise growth when the practice the leadership of surrender. He does not mean this as in giving up but in the sense that there is more to leadership than the leader. A link to his article is here and I recommend it.




Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.