Leaders Admit Mistakes Quickly (an Example)

By | June 18, 2014

[June 18, 2014] A common practice in leadership is to spend time learning from the mistakes, errors, and omissions of others. Senior leader mistakes should be studied very closely because of the value it brings to our development. Now comes news that the IRS “lost” emails that stem from allegations of IRS target political enemies. A basic rule of Leadership 101 is that leaders admit mistakes quickly.


Source: the UK Guardian [see note 3]

The senior leadership of the IRS did not pay attention to this lesson. Apparently, they knew about the missing emails since February and did not inform Congress. To make matters worse, emails went missing from six other IRS officials connected to the original targeting scandal.

In an earlier post, I identified several reasons for leaders to admit mistakes quickly1. In short, there is little downside to bringing unfortunate errors out in the open as soon as it occurs. There are also some unfortunate results for not admitting mistakes early.

Expected effects of not admitting mistakes quickly:

  • The mistakes will eventually be discovered and trust will be lost
  • Subjects leaders to accusations of lying, omission, and cover-up
  • Subjects the organization to continuous bad publicity
  • Creates extra work for leaders in defending future problems
  • Destroys credibility
  • Tarnishes organization and employee reputations
  • Demonstrates a lack of moral courage

There are other problems associated with not admitting mistakes early. In the political realm, for example, the problems are magnified because those involved in the opposing political party are for less forgiving. In the IRS scandal, it has given new life to the on-going investigation.2

“Those that fail to admit mistakes, to include politicians, set themselves up for greater failure later and are establishing a culture where lying, deceit, dishonesty, double-dealing, and pretense are acceptable forms of behavior.” – theLeaderMaker.com

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[1] https://www.theleadermaker.com/leaders-admit-mistakes-quickly/

[2] http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/elections/2014/06/16/issa-koskinen-irs-lerner-emails/10635601/

[3] http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/jun/03/white-house-republicans-irs-scandal

Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I provide one article every day. My writings are influenced by great thinkers such as Friedrich Nietzsche, Karl Jung, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Jean Piaget, Erich Neumann, and Jordan Peterson, whose insight and brilliance have gotten millions worldwide to think about improving ourselves. Thank you for reading my blog.

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