Being a leader has a lot of perks. If you’re near or at the top of the corporate hierarchy, you could enjoy a much larger salary. If you’re an influential person in your field, your colleagues could defer to your guidance. And if you’re a politician, your decisions could shape social situations for years.
However, becoming a leader also means taking responsibility for your actions, as well as that of your organization. This is part and parcel of being a leader, whether you’re a chief financial officer or a thought leader. This is called accountability and it is one of the cornerstones of a trusted company or government.
An important aspect of accountability is taking responsibility for mistakes you or your organization make. But why is this so important?
Why Apologies and Accountability Go Hand in Hand
Being accountable means you are in charge of something. The higher you are in any hierarchy, the more accountable you are. If you’re a leader, you are responsible for a lot more than just your own actions. For example, the CEO of SMRT isn’t just accountable for their personal involvement in the business but also for anything the corporation has its hands in.
Many leaders around the world have apologized and taken responsibility for their actions. In February 2020, the executives of an airline company took responsibility for its decline and offered their resignation.
On the other hand, some leaders chose to hush-up their mistakes, often causing fatal or extremely consequences, just like what happened to Toyota. The automotive company had to pay more than $1.3 billion because of a covered-up defect.
If an organization or a leader makes a mistake, its important they apologize for any inconvenience or negative impact it has made.
But why is this important?
- Accepts Actions
The most important facet of saying sorry for your actions is that it signals that you as a leader are taking ownership of the actions. It acknowledges that you have made a mistake. This signals that you and your organization are willing rectify the mistake.
- Builds Credibility
This can build confidence not only in your leadership skills but also to the credibility of your enterprise. By saying sorry and taking ownership of your actions, you show your employees and other stakeholders that your organization is credible. It shows you are trustworthy and your organization isn’t duplicitous in any of your dealings.
Accountability Evasions to Watch Out For
When you or your company makes a mistake, one of the following can be your knee-jerk reaction. However, these accountability evasions won’t help fix your issues or the image of your organization. Learn to recognize them and why they are terrible for your credibility.
- “This Will Blow Over”
This reaction aims to dampen the seriousness of the situation. The primary motivation of this evasion is to pacify stakeholders. But some leaders may use it to downplay how bad things are going. The main problem with this evasion is when people actually believe it and don’t do anything to solve the crisis at hand. This exacerbates the problem instead of leading to a solution. Focus on determining the extent of the damage a mistake has done rather than playing it down.
- “I Said How I Felt”
As a leader, you should be clear and concise with your communications much like how SMRT and their administrative staff disseminate their updates. If you’re vague when talking or messaging your colleagues or employees, you only have yourself to blame when they misinterpret you. Claiming that you told people what you felt isn’t the same as voicing out facts or making a decision. You are a leader, say what you mean not what you feel and you can avoid any errors from misinterpretations.
- “I Didn’t Want to Make it a Big Deal”
Some mistakes aren’t really a big deal, especially if they only affect one person are easily rectifiable. However, some mistakes are serious and must be dealt with the appropriate gravity. Downplaying an issue and not telling as many people who can help solve it because it will become a big deal is extremely self-defeating.
- “We Don’t Want to Cause a Panic”
The most serious and dangerous accountability evasion is the cover-up. Not only does this prevent anyone from coming up with a solution for the issue in the first place, the original problem can continue causing damage. This can cost millions of dollars in liability and perhaps even cost lives, such as the Toyota defect mentioned before.
- “It’s Not My Fault”
The worst kind of accountability evasion is claiming that a mistake wasn’t your fault. As the leader of an organization, you are ultimately accountable for major incidents. Don’t pass the buck if you are clearly at fault. This will only reduce your credibility and make you appear weak.
Taking responsibility for a mistake and apologizing for it is a brave move, but it’s only the first step. As a leader, you are also in charge of ensuring your mistakes are rectified and those affected by them duly compensated. But saying sorry is still an important step.