Do you refuse to be wrong? Do you get a lump in your throat, slightly sweaty palms, or assume a certain pious, entitled disposition at the very mention of admitting you're wrong?
Honestly think about it . . .
When you “listen” to others, are you really just waiting for your chance to respond? When you “listen” is your mind already made up and nothing they say has a prayer of permeating your psyche because you certainly cannot be wrong?
Are people around you afraid to tell you the truth? And might that truth reveal you were wrong about something?
Do you shoot the messenger and not even realize you shoot the messenger?
Are you surrounded by yes-sayers because any word other than ‘yes’ might offend your entitled sense of rightness?
I understand, no one likes to be wrong. I don’t like to be wrong. It’s not fun. It doesn’t feel good. But guess what, being wrong is a reality. And not even you—not even I—can escape it.
No one can be right about all the things, all the time. So why pretend to be?
Either consciously or subconsciously, purposefully or acting on auto-pilot, if you can’t seem to ever admit when you’re wrong, you can’t be be a self-aware leader. The acute refusal to admit when you're wrong staunches the will and the skill to see yourself clearly; it suffocates your will and the skill to see yourself as others see you.
I want you to do something, right here, right now.
Sit back in your chair. Close your eyes. And envision the last time you uttered the words I was wrong.
Can you conjure up a single memory? One instance?
If you can’t recall a recent rendezvous with the words I was wrong, there should be all sorts of alarm bells and whistles going off for you right now.
If you can’t remember the last time you admitted to being wrong, there is no if you have CEO Disease. You DO have CEO Disease.
And the inability to be wrong doesn’t just hamper the leadership influence of CEOs, it affects leaders at all levels.
If you can’t ever seem to be wrong and if you can’t muster a meaningful apology when you are wrong (and you will be), then you certainly won’t inspire people to follow you.
No one likes a know it all. And if people don’t like you, good luck being a leader with any sort of meaningful influence.
If you want to be a legacy leader, you need to win hearts to influence people.
Now, instead of just condemning you to a lifetime of chronic CEO Disease, I want to help you move from CEO Disease to legacy leadership—winning hearts and influencing people.
Now, when you are wrong, act through the following 3 steps to win hearts and influence people:
1. Forget intentionally - I believe in man’s better angels. Most of us don’t intentionally hurt others around us. And if we didn’t intend to be hurtful, then we may not see the value in apologizing. Because of course we weren’t wrong if we didn’t intend to be wrong, right? Wrong.
Regardless of your intent, if your actions were hurtful to the people you lead, acknowledge it. Practice by using the following apologies:
I was obviously not in my right mind at the time. While I didn’t intend to hurt you [or insert your wrong here], I did, and for that I am sorry.
Truly, I’m sorry for how I acted or for the decision I made. I can see how it hurt you, even if it was not my intent.
2. No buts - “I'm sorry, but . . . ” is not admitting you're wrong, it's mounting an argument. You want to be a leader, so you have to act like it. When addressing your wrongdoing or giving an apology, the word but shouldn’t be in your lexicon.
3. Accept responsibility - As painful as it may be, this means actually saying it—“I was wrong.” Wr-r--rrr-oo-n-g. It’s okay to be wrong, everyone is at some point. It’s recovering from being wrong that sets legacy leaders apart from the rest. Try something like this:
At the time, I didn’t realize how my actions or decision would affect you. Now that you have shared that with me, I realize that I was wrong.
For more ways to recover from CEO Disease so you can reach people’s hearts, get a free copy of my ebook, Is CEO Disease Crippling Your Company? How to Diagnose and Treat It Before It's Too Late.