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Is ‘Sorry’ still the hardest word for school leaders to say?

Mike Hodgkiss
Mike Hodgkiss 26 September, 2017

Is ‘Sorry’ still the hardest word for school leaders to say?

In an earlier article on this site I wrote:

I think as a school leader there are times when you should apologise for something you did or said, because it’s a sign of humility and that is a vital aspect of strong leadership. It builds a bridge back to the people you wronged or hurt, it shows that you are able to re-consider and it creates a more positive work environment.  Apologising freely requires a good deal of courage.  It’s not comfortable for any of us to admit an error, or to acknowledge that something we’ve done has caused others harm or inconvenience. So when someone truly apologises, we know he or she is putting honesty and honour above personal comfort or self-protection.  It’s inspiring, and it feels brave.

 The piece got quite a reaction on Twitter, so I thought I would share some of the comments and replies I received:

The ability to make mistakes, say sorry and move on are leadership strengths.

“I’m sorry” is a statement. “I won’t do it again” is a promise. “How do I make it up to you” is a responsibility.

I often find that apologising and taking steps to sort things out still wrong foots people as they expect leaders to evade, avoid or deflect.

Modelling vulnerability to other leaders and staff is an important feature of school improvement, especially in a challenging context with low morale.

You have to be courageous enough to show vulnerability.

You cant do it all on your own. Be open to vulnerability and don’t pretend to know everything.

I’d much rather say ‘I’m new to this. I don’t know the answer’ or ‘I’m sorry about that’. Than have them blame others and blatantly lie.

Always (be prepared to say sorry) if you want to take risks and try new things you have to be honest when they haven’t worked out.

In my experience people don’t expect their leaders to be perfect. They DO expect them to be honest and to have integrity.

Having the courage, integrity and confidence to apologise is a sign of a cracking leader. One I’d follow and be inspired by.

As long as the leader is not making mistakes daily – there is a saturation point. Plus, some see mistakes in decisions regardless.

Honesty –  Integrity –  Vulnerability 

More important than strength and stability?

Honesty starts with being honest with yourself.

A good leader is a person who takes a little more than his share of the blame and a little less than his share of the credit. —John Maxwell