Every manager messes up from time to time. But the difference between good managers and great ones lies in how they handle those mistakes.

Here then are four simple ways you can demonstrate good leadership when you make a mistake:

1. Admit it

Never try to cover up or blame others for your mistake. If you messed up, admit it and own it. It doesn't mean you’re a bad person, just an imperfect one—like everybody else.

Insecure managers may feel that admitting their mistake will make them look weak. Another name for that emotion is pride! Moreover, not admitting a mistake can carry a high price—loss of respect.

A leader who continually refuses to accept responsibility may succeed in a corporate structure, but will never be perceived or be a good leader. People will work with them, but never trust them.

Admitting your mistakes and doing what you can to fix them earns you the respect and trust of those you lead.

2. Learn from it

An old proverb states: When you repeat a mistake, it is not a mistake anymore but a decision. The key is to be action-oriented and focus on the future. “You need to get on top of it, get ahead of it, and deal with it,” says one management expert.

Think about what led to your mistake? Were you rushing too fast? Did you gather all the facts? Did you consult others? Whatever factors were involved, identify what you need to do differently next time to make sure the same mistake doesn’t happen again.

Remember too that one mistake—even a big one—does not have to derail your life or career. No matter how badly you mess things up, there's almost always a next time with the opportunity to get things right. And if the big mistake you made today helps you do better tomorrow, well then maybe it isn't so terrible after all.

3. Use it to teach others

When you make mistakes, make a point of teaching others what you've learned. Doing so builds connection and trust.

The best leaders are the great teachers, coaches, and guides who show us the way after they have been down that path.

4. Move on

“To err is human,” wrote English poet Alexander Pope. But he added, “to forgive, divine.” That includes forgiving yourself and moving on. You won’t forget your mistake, but you shouldn’t dwell on it or let it get you down.

Chances are things will get back to normal pretty quickly, and the incident will get lost in the shuffle of everyday work. You might have a rough few weeks, but at some point you’ll notice that things have gotten back to normal.

Like all of us, you're bound to make mistakes. But when you handle them well, they can help you be a better leader and a better person.


Everybody makes mistakes, even the best of managers. How can you recover? Admits your mistake, learn from it, use it to teach others, and move on.


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