5 Words Every Leader Must Say And Master

Do you like the taste of crow?  Crow isn’t appetizing.  It doesn’t go down your throat easily or sit well on your stomach.  It often has a terrible after-taste.  No one ever asks for an extra helping of crow.  And I have never been invited over to a person’s house to grill out crow.  Let’s face it, we do not like eating crow. 

However, here is one of the great leadership secrets – The best leaders may not enjoy eating crow, but they have developed a taste for it.  They understand that every healthy leadership diet contains a regular serving of crow.  The best leaders have learned the five words that every great leader must master – “I’m sorry.  I was wrong.”  The best leaders eat crow.

Sadly, many leaders think they lose credibility when they have to admit to they are wrong and have messed up.  They think if their team discovers they are not perfect, they will lose influence.  Actually the opposite is true.

The irony is that self-absorbed leaders are unaware that their team already knows they messed up.  By admitting you made a mistake, you are not telling anyone something they don’t already know!  They already know you made mistakes.  By not admitting the obvious you lose tremendous credibility and influence.

By not admitting mistakes, you come across as prideful, insecure, untrustworthy, selfish, and clueless.  On the other hand, by admitting your mistakes you deepen the relationships with those on your team because you’re human.  This builds credibility and influence.  It also creates an atmosphere of grace which allows your team to become risk-takers and show creativity.  They aren’t afraid to make mistakes.

So here is some advice to five leaders who need to eat some crow:

  1. President Obama, call Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and say “I’m sorry.  I was wrong.  You should keep your land.”
  2. Jim Tressel, call a news conference and say “I’m sorry.  I was wrong.  I should have notified the OSU compliance office of what I knew.”
  3. Terrelle Pryor, just say “I’m sorry.  I was wrong.  I should not have driven all those cars.”
  4. Rob Bell, produce a Nooma video and say “I’m sorry.  I was wrong.  There is a hell.”
  5. Al Gore, just say “I’m sorry.  I was wrong.  There is no such thing as global warming.”

And to my wife I need to say “I’m sorry sweetie.  I was wrong.”  She will then ask, “What are you apologizing for specifically.”  At that point I will confess one of my many wrongs.  Why?  Because I love the taste of crow.

Leaders, here is an important question and I’d love to hear your comments – When is the last time you looked at someone in your life and said, “I’m sorry.  I was wrong.”

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About Brian Dodd on Leadership

I am a church stewardship and leadership consultant for INJOY Stewardship Solutions. This blog combines my personal passions of church, sports, pop culture and family into a single leadership resource. I trust your time on this site will create conversations and add value to your life.

5 Responses to “5 Words Every Leader Must Say And Master”

  1. Brian,

    I am a regular reader and have very much enjoyed and benefited from your posts. However, I am disappointed with today’s post. As has already been mentioned, you have called other leaders to ‘eat crow’ naming how you see that they have been wrong. My disappointment comes from two things, firstly, you have named them publicly without approaching them first (to my knowledge). Secondly, your list of wrongs reflects a particular political outlook; an outlook that has an agenda on the privileged right and often supported by the ‘religious right’. I am sure there are some Republicans that have done wrong that you also could have named (not that I am suggesting that you should!)
    As an Australian I may be out of order on this not knowing the lay of the land. However, as an Australia I may have an outsiders objective view that might be worth at least considering. I would think that leadership is well expressed by both sides of the political divide and that we all have something to learn from a variety of leaders from a variety of backgrounds and leadership styles. If this is a blog for those who lead from a certain political perspective I would struggle with that. As it is I already have to think through many posts where leadership involves ‘running with the runners’ so to speak. Much of my leadership is ‘walking with the cripple, blind and lame’ to follow the analogy. I have simply read that as coming from a different leadership context and have been happy to glean what I can glean. If, however, it is coming from a particular political persuasion that becomes a very different story. No single side of politics has a mortgage on good leadership.

    I Look forward to more and more balanced posts.

  2. PS
    I enjoy and appreciate your blog. Thanks.

    • Pastor Pappas,

      Thank you for your kind words and comments. I never mind at all when someone has a different perspective on a topic. I actually welcome the discussion. Thank you for being a regular reader and always feel free to give your feedback.

      Thanks and have a great weekend,

  3. You gotta be kidding, brother! … Is Jesus a Republican? Do you know the history of the Palestinian people? Do you know any Palestinians? Do you know any Palestinian Christians? … And so you’re saying that Jimmy Carter was/is wrong on the Middle East, too? … At the very minimum the jury is still out on the land debate in Israel AND ALSO global warming. I mean seriously, global temps continue to show increases on average and globally. Deserts are expanding. Millenia-old glaciers and ice caps are shrinking at increasing rates each year. … If you’re looking for easy (much easier) targets in presidents who need to eat crow, try the Bushes: “No new taxes” (from Bush 1) and “There are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq” (from Bush 2). … I’m not saying that Jesus is a Democrat by any means, but get real on your judgments. … Jim Tressel. Absolutely. Did he think he was too big to fail?

  4. Dear Brian,

    I’m sorry, you got it wrong. Obama was right. Israel/Benjamin Netanyahu should not keep the (occupied) land. It is not their land.


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