President's Blog: Leonard Buhler
We leaders are a sorry bunch.
This is how I greeted my colleague, the Executive Director of Ministries, first thing in the morning the other day. A confused look followed.
“I don’t know yet. But I’m surely going to have done something wrong by the end of the day, so I’m profusely sorry.”
We both threw our heads back and roared. Because it’s funny. And also because it’s so true. In fact, we joked, we should both create apology templates in our email programs: “Dear ______, I’m sorry for ______.”
We’re always sorry as leaders. Have you noticed that? It’s impossible to please everyone. Case in point: our team at Power to Change is busy developing The Life, a national initiative to challenge Christians around the world to commit one hundred percent to Christ. One element of this initiative is The Life card – a credit-card sized symbol that’s a reminder of the commitment. “It has to be brown and yellow,” a number of people suggested, “It should be warm, earthy tones.” “Blue,” the rest insisted. “A refreshing ocean blue.”
Brown and yellow versus blue. These are the situations you face sometimes as a leader. It’s not like you can compromise and choose green. That would make everyone unhappy. And no matter what you decide, you’re likely to step on somebody’s toes. So you make the choice, and then you apologize if you need to. And you’ll need to frequently. I was only half-joking about the apology template. You might want to create one for yourself!
On a more serious note, I’ve found that being quick to apologize has always served me well as a leader. (As a husband and father too.) Recognizing that a person is hurt doesn’t necessarily mean you were in the wrong, or that you’ve made a mistake. Apologizing is not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign that people’s feelings matter to you, and that you value relationship more than you value being “right.”
When you find yourself between a rock and a hard place, which you will, you’re in good company. I won’t deny it can get uncomfortable. But try to relax. Try to laugh about it. Then apologize.
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