How Emotionally Intelligent Leaders Respond

Have you noticed how its's nearly impossible for a politician to admit a mistake? How about a football coach who calls a really bad play? Or a business leader who needs to reverse course on a declared business strategy. 

When did we make leadership the art and science of perfection?

We often react like the young Navy pilot who is engaged in flight maneuvers. The Admiral had acquired absolute radio silence. However the young pilot mistakenly turned on his radio and was heard muttering "Boy, am I fouled up!"

The Admiral was furious and ordered all channels to be open and said, "Will the pilot who broke silence identify himself immediately!" After painful pause, the young pilot's voice was heard again, "I'm fouled up, but not that fouled up!"

It's a silly story that illustrates a painful reality. It's hard for many of us to admit wrongs. I'd like to suggest every time we admit error, misjudgment, mistakes, or poor calls, we don't go down in our leadership… We go up. People don't demand perfection from their leaders, but they do admire and follow honesty.

I've observed 5 responses to mistakes:

  1. The "Blow Up" - Leaders who play the blame game and react in anger. 
  2. The "Cover Up" - Leaders who try to hide or conceal mistakes to protect their self-image. 
  3. The "Back Up" - Leaders who isolate and withdraw and hope no one notices. 
  4. The "Give Up" - Leaders who quit on themselves and others. 
  5. The "Go Up" - Leaders who admit mistakes and grow their leadership, influence, impact, and inspire others with unvarnished honesty. They don't go down, they go up!

Part of being an Emotionally Intelligent leader is being real, honest, and even vulnerable. I know I admire leaders who admit wrongs. I never think less of them in fact, my view goes up!

It's okay to admit mistakes and realize leaders are flawed human beings that are simply called to lead. What can you admit today that just might make you stronger as a leader in the eyes of others? 

Here's to "going up" in your leadership!

For information on keynote presentations, team workshops, and one on one coaching, contact Steve's team at: or call: (425) 681-9871.

The purpose of Leadership Quest is to help professionals develop their personal leadership, vision and emotional intelligence. Everyday I strive to help leaders and teams achieve their desired goals in sales productivity, leadership, time maximization, and life-balance.