« Secondary School Reform- Part One | Main | Receiving A Diploma Should Be A Non-Timed Event »


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


Pete, Great post. I had a similar experience, only I was one of the team members. It was our small group of students that are in our Ed Leadership classes. The professor had done something we felt was very wrong. She poisoned the water, and when she finally apologized to us, it was only because I had confronted her. She, however, did not seem like her apology was heartfelt, and that she was only apologizing because she knew that to do anything else would be insane (let's just say things got pretty intense). I still feel some resentment toward her, but realize now that she still refuses to see her blind spots (even though she ironically teaches us how important it is to understand blind spots when we are leaders). I hope that they don't harbor any more resentment towards you. The only way you can make sure they don't is to really change your behavior, and not just with them, but with every other team you work with.

Jan Borelli

Excellent post. For some reason, many of my generation were raised in a culture of adults not apologizing... it was a sign of weakness. Somewhere along the line, I decided to admit that I am human and apologize when my actions have hurt and/or offended. It's made all the difference!

Dave Sherman

I, too, have had to make an apology after I made a mistake. I am only human, and an apology was exactly the best way for me to rectify a bad situation. This simple act of humility can go very far in the eyes of your staff or the students' parents.

Terrific post, Pete.

Greg Farr

Excellent post, Pete! The line between team member and team leader is difficult to discern at times. It's like that saying, "First Among Equals"...it seems to make sense and sounds good, but talk about a difficult concept. Followers want leaders who are decision-makers, risk-takers, and are not afraid to get out front on certain issues and take the hits. But they also want a sense of "realness" in their leaders. And nothing shows that realness more than being willing to step up and admit when they have made a mistake or come across with the wrong impression. Thank you for such an honest post. It is a useful reminder to all of us!


I think you nailed it with this post. As leaders we often don't interprete the verbal and nonverbal cues from our staff. In part this is because we are so focused on moving the agenda ahead that we don't pick up on what other people are feeling. That's why its often a good idea to elicit feedback from your group on a regular basis. Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch used to ask the citizens of New York "How am I doing?" It might not be a bad idea for us to do the same.


Apologies can come from many different places within us...if they come from the head, people sense it and the path to rebuilding trust will continue to be blocked. When they come from the heart, they sense that too.



Good point. Look at our country's leadership today...no apologies, no accountability.

Most people crave authentic leaders. It is so important for us to 'be human' at work.



You are so right! In the 21st Century, we are leaders leading leaders. This is a huge shift from the hierarchical, command and control type of leadership that has dominated education for so long. There are a lot of us who have catching up to do.



I agree about asking those we lead 'how are we doing'; and at the same time I realize that unless there is a sense of safety and trust, most folks will tell us what we want to hear.

It's so easy for teams to fall into the pattern of 'making nice' in public while taking their real concerns, issues, and frustration private. Doing this erodes trust and kills the team.

It took courage for the person in my post to come into my office and let me know what was really going on with the team. People like that are real organizational heroes.


Kelly Christopherson

As a leader, being able to admit you have done something that is wrong and apologize for your error is vital to growth; both for you and those involved. Having been through a series of situations in the past few years where I need to face up to my own mistakes, I have come to appreciate that a heartfelt apology is vital for any organizational growth since everyone does make mistakes. As a leader, it is also my role to allow people the opportunity to approach me and apologize for what they have done and then move on to learning and improving. I have been very lucky to have a great mentor who has helped me through some interesting and difficult situations and I've grown in ways I couldn't have imagined.
Another great thing about your post is that you acknowledged that you have a weakness and that you are working to strengthen it. You demonstrated that you, like all others, have areas where growth is necessary and improvement is your goal.
I commend you on what you did - it is not easy to admit that you, as leader, have made a mistake but, by acknowledging and approaching the group with sincerity, not excuses, demonstrates a level of leadership that people can trust and will follow. Thanks for sharing Pete.

Rick Pierce


You comments are right on target. What you have described is one of the cornerstones of Servant Leadership – honest, genuine humility!

In a recent post (http://risingsunconsultants.blogspot.com/2008/03/do-you-have-it-do-you-evev-know-what-it.html) on a new blog I’ve started which focuses on Servant Leadership (http://risingsunconsultants.blogspot.com/), I shared my belief that true strength, power and control come through showing our vulnerabilities. They come through our weaknesses – our ability to be human.

Our ability to be human is one of our greatest gifts. It is exactly this style of leadership that people are asking for. Leaders who care for people and hold high standards for behavior, performance, and attitudes are seen as inspiring and motivating. These leaders are seen taking risks and reaching out to people. They are the leaders who see something in others that most refuse to see. These leaders allow room for mistakes and taking risks; they accept their own humanity and are not afraid to say “I’m sorry” when they make mistakes.

Thank you for your personal courage in sharing your story and for encouraging such an important dialogue.


Thanks Rick. I enjoyed your site.

The comments to this entry are closed.

About this blog