The Qualities of Leadership- Part One

Can admitting your mistakes make you a better leader? Key leadership traits and 4 steps to address admitting your mistakes


Mistakes are impossible to avoid. Everyone makes them; of course, not everyone accepts responsibilities for them. In some cases, that’s okay.

But if you’re a leader, it’s likely not. If you don’’t acknowledge, learn from or even apologize for mistakes, you may lose the trust and respect of the people you’re leading.

EDITOR’S NOTE: “The Qualities of Leadership” is part one of a two-part series exploring how leaders can tap into their emotional intelligence to lead, motivate and inspire others during challenging times. In part one, we focus on characteristics of leadership and the value of personal self-awareness applied to identifying and admitting mistakes. In part two, we offer steps for offering sincere apologies to regain trust and momentum.

A leader does not show weakness. A leader never admits when he is wrong. A leader does not apologize.

How often do leaders and people in general fall into these thinking traps?

Even when they logically come to understand these are not always true in challenging times, these often become traps in our minds.

In the midst of challenges, when problems seem to be knocking on your door, a good leader and a strong person will often put his head down and forge ahead. It’s difficult to inspire and motivate others if you stop in your tracks and appear uncertain about what course of action to take next.

Perception and action are intricately linked in what we do and in how others perceive what we do.

Leadership Traits

We generally consider that a good leader demonstrates certain traits, including:

  • Confidence
  • Decisiveness
  • Strength
  • Vision
  • A positive attitude
  • Communication skills
  • The ability to delegate
  • Intuition
  • The ability to inspire others

There are many other traits that can appear on this list, such as intelligence, compassion, out-side-the-box thinking, optimism, tenacity and more. It’’s not imperative that all of these traits be there but many of them are.

Generally, a list of leadership traits doesn’t include admitting mistakes, because admitting mistakes implies experiencing failures. But, in fact, both experiencing failure and admitting mistakes should be on the list of leadership traits.

By admitting mistakes, a leader has the potential to learn, grow and adapt. By admitting mistakes to others, a leader has the ability to build trust and inspire.

Admitting a mistake at the right time, in the right way and in the right place can demonstrate strength, intelligence and show confidence, all of which are great traits for a leader to exhibit.

The Responsibility to Do Something

One can lead by example, influence, fear, with vision, intimidation, charisma and more. However, one might say real leadership requires a sense of a “responsibility to do something for a purpose.”  The purpose may not always be positive but there is purpose.

From where this responsibility or purpose comes varies.

Some leaders, for example:

  • Have the responsibility put upon them by others.
  • Feel or believe the responsibility of leadership is theirs and have no choice but to lead.
  • Have a specific purpose—situational, short or long term—for which they take leadership.
  • Are incidental, or some would say “accidental leaders,” whom others follow without the leader’s intention, consent or knowledge

Sometimes the pressure of responsibility and purpose can lead to tunnel vision. That in turn can lead to mistakes, which is often when leadership is tested. Great leaders have the opportunity to gracefully emerge from this experience.

Next: The Key leadership traits and 4 Steps for Admitting Your Mistakes

Tara Orchard
Tara Orchard
Tara Orchard is a coach, trainer, consultant and writer who applies her insights into people and Masters training in psychology to facilitate performance improvements, relationships and communication for people and businesses. She has worked with organizations to deliver clarity on culture and brand, develop their people and manage relationships with social network communities. Over the past 18 years she has consulted with 1000's of people who want to make effective transitions in their lives. Tara has a knack for hearing what people are thinking and helping them see what they need to see. She is the founder of her own career and social network coaching business, works with several other organizations as a coach and consultant and is about to complete her first book on the "psychology of effective social networking".

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