Friday, May 8, 2009


Bloomberg posted a piece from which asserts that all leaders need to be able to say three little words from time to time, 'I was wrong'. For most leaders, it is as hard to say these three words as it was for the Fonz 30 years ago. Some leaders can rationalize almost anything and see saying these three little words as a sign of weakness.

I actually think the ability to say the three little words is a sign of strength. It shows that leaders are comfortable being themselves and that they know they are not infallible. Furthermore, leaders who never admit being wrong will find themselves with an increasing cynical group of followers. They will be followers only because they need the job, not because of loyalty to the leader.

So, what do you think? Should a leader be able to say the three little words?

Cheers, Mike


  1. Mike, in some measure, I think that the struggle with people saying "I'm wrong" is that they mix that up with "I'm sorry". They are two different admissions with four combinations. I believe that when people confuse the two, the concept of "I'm wrong" balloons out to a much bigger admission, that results in no admission. Certainly no excuse for the actions we've seen, but perhaps a reason behind it. Just a thought!

  2. Joel, thanks for the good comment. After reading your comment, it seems to me that leaders should make a quick direct statement, "I was wrong." Any apology should follow as a separate statement that shouldn't take away from the first statement.


  3. Additionally, one can certainly say "I was wrong", but I also think that real leaders generally share their decision criteria.

    With the clarity and luxury of hindsight, you certainly can say "I was wrong", without being apologetic about it.

  4. I agree with you two points. Sharing the decision criteria before hand to the extent that one can make it easier to say "I was wrong". If one shares afterward, care needs to taken that sharing the criteria is done professionally and not as "I was wrong, but..."

    As for not having to be apologetic about it, I think it may depend on how the decision affected others.

    I will post on this again next week.