In business, sometimes we forget that we have to actually have emotions when we lead. It’s funny, but true. We get that we need to care, support, take notice, and take action in our personal lives, but because “it’s business,” we sometimes leave our feelings at the door. Watching clients and friends throughout my career, I had the conversation many times where the inevitable question gets asked: why should I apologize?
Usually the leader has misspoken, taken a wrong turn with their team, or simply had a bad day. When that happens, as a servant leader, we have to own our mistakes. Not because we need to be overly emotional, but because our team deserves to see us be the role model we are supposed to be for them.
Realize that most people don’t need “apologies” because their feelings are hurt. They need an apology to validate their judgment. You see, there are people on our teams who trust us (that’s why they follow us). We need to maintain that trust our team has placed in us.
Beyond that, the individuals on our team are smart. That’s why you hired them, right? When you take a wrong turn and go down a path that would be deemed a “failure,” you have to own it, for two key reasons. One, they need to know how to own failure and missteps themselves. Show them how it’s done. Second, they need to know that the path was indeed the wrong one.
You see, many times the people on our team are going down the path with us, trusting us, but knowing that the path is wrong. When you acknowledge your wrong turn, you own it, and you apologize for it, your team feels more confident in themselves. Don’t take that the wrong way, they aren’t gloating in your failure. They are learning from it.
When you own it and apologize for it, they learn to trust their gut even more. Such that next time, when you start going down the wrong path, your team will speak up. They will have the courage to share their perspective, because you validated that their perspective, their gut, was right with your previous apology.
Them speaking up will save you time, money, and effort. And this is exactly what you want!
So if ever you ask yourself, why should I apologize, know you are making your team stronger when you do. Be the role model they need while also validating their gut and giving them the ability to speak up and help lead the team in the future.