Leadership Means Having to Say You’re Sorry

July 28, 2010

Remember the movie Love Story?  If you do, you’ll remember Jennifer Cavalleri’s famous line to her husband, Oliver.  They’d had an argument.  He ran out.  He came back to find her crying on the steps of their apartment, and he began to say he was sorry.  And Jenny says . . . wait for it . . .“Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”    Well, what may be true for love, isn’t true for leadership.  It’s the other way around.  Leaders understand the importance of acknowledging and apologizing for their mistakes.

In his book, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, Marshall Goldsmith, identifies 20 habits that hold leaders back.  Habit #15 is “Refusing to express regret.”

People who can’t apologize at work may as well be wearing a t-shirt that says, “I don’t care about you.”  The irony, of course, is that all the fears that lead us to resist apologizing – the fear of losing, admitting we’re wrong, ceding control – are actually erased by an apology.  When you say, “I’m sorry,” you turn people into your allies, even your partners.

I think that just about sums it up.

1 Comment

  1. Brian Frolo says:

    Nice post and timely. Believe or not I have to say just that on occasion, and probably not enough, for all the reason Goldsmith ID’s and more. Just posted to Twitter, etc, etc. Thanks!

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