There are a lot of things you can argue are flawed about our current president. Most of them have already been mentioned by others on multiple occasions. Here, however, I want to focus on one particular flaw, not to throw fuel on an already overwhelming fire, but because I think it’s instructional for every leader.
First, I want to be clear that this has nothing to do with politics or ideology. It also has nothing to do with any of the things you may find morally reprehensible about Trump, or the things he’s done that you disagree with.
For that matter, even if you agree with President Trump’s policies, I think it’s important to understand this fatal flaw because not only is it at the core of most of the decisions he has made over the past four years, it’s probably what drove a good number of yours.
That sounds harsh, I know, but if you find yourself recoiling at the possibility, it really just highlights my point. The fatal flaw of leadership is an inability to admit when you’re wrong.
When you think about what caused the greatest amount of pain and chaos, more often than not, it came down to a leader who was emotionally incapable of admitting he was wrong. However, our current president isn’t the only one who struggles with this–almost everyone does. I’m willing to admit that I’m among those who are allergic to the words “I was wrong.”
Sure, “being wrong” isn’t ideal, but the truth is, most of us are wrong on a fairly regular basis. That’s normal. It becomes a problem when you see “being wrong” as a weakness or something that makes you inferior. It isn’t. It makes you normal.
As a leader, you have a responsibility to be self-aware enough to realize it, and mature enough to admit it. It’s hard to admit to yourself you were wrong, and it’s even more difficult to say it out loud. Make no mistake, however, it’s one of the most important things a leader should do.
Usually, when we resist admitting to ourselves and to others that we were wrong, it’s an attempt to avoid feeling shame. But, admitting you were wrong shouldn’t be associated with shame. Instead, it should be rewarded since it demonstrates a willingness to learn and grow.
Consider that if your primary goal is to never have to admit you were wrong, you’re not actually focused on being right. That’s because, very often, right or wrong can be measured by outcomes. Did the thing you tried to accomplish work? If it didn’t, the logical next step is to figure out why and come up with a better plan.
In the President’s case, the next step has, without a single exception that I can think of, involved diverting blame to others, attacking his critics, or claiming it’s all “fake news.” He even went as far as saying “I take no responsibility,” when asked at a press conference about problems with the response to the Covid-19 crisis.
If you’re unwilling to admit that something didn’t work–that you were wrong–you cut off all possibility of actually being right. That seems completely illogical, but the truth is, we aren’t always logical. Sometimes our pride gets in the way. When it does, it’s not only bad for us, it’s bad for whatever it is we lead. Our focus stops being on getting things right and doing them well.
The other problem for leaders is that when you won’t admit you’re wrong, no one on your team can move forward. You’re essentially asking them to choose to defend your pride, rather than pursue the mission. As a result, you break trust and damage the influence you have as a leader. Now, not only are you wrong but your failure to admit it means you’re also putting your leadership at risk.
When you’re more worried about avoiding every version of the words “I was wrong,” than being right, you go to extraordinary lengths to avoid anything that could possibly be considered a concession. You become more concerned with the narrative than with the results.
By the way, there’s another point worth making, which is that if you’re worried admitting that you were wrong will cost you respect, it’s almost always the case that the opposite is true. Your team will respect you more because you’re honest with them, and willing to put them before your pride.
I think it’s fair to say that the consequences are much higher for the President of the United States, the truth is, it’s an important lesson for any leader.
Trump’s Most Fatal Flaw Has Nothing to Do With Politics. It’s a Lesson for Every Leader The British Journal Editors and Wire Services/ Inc..