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Five Bad Apologies by Leaders

Leaders make mistakes. Leaders do dumb things. I hope we can keep them to a minimum, but we are not going to attain sinless perfection in this life. By the way, in leadership you may be called on to apologize on behalf of the organization or church you lead. You may not have had a specific role in the wrongdoing, but you are the leader and spokesperson for the organization. Those apologies should be as sincere and heartfelt as those for personal wrongdoing.

You will make a mistake.

Most of you will do something stupid.

I know. Been there. Done that.

I really don’t like to share my experience with apologies, because it is evidence of my bad leadership. But leaders need to learn to apologize. Real apologies. Sincere apologies.

Leadership credibility will only be restored if leaders are willing to apologize. But too many leaders offer non-apology apologies. Here are five of the really bad ones:

  1. “If I offended anyone . . .” This one is also called the hypothetical apology. There is really no mention of wrongdoing. It tries to put the responsibility of the apology on the offended party or parties.
  2. “For whatever harm I caused . . .” Look, if you are unwilling to acknowledge your actions or words hurt people, don’t waste your breath on a non-apology like this one. You should state specifically your wrongdoing and acknowledge your awareness of it.
  3. “But . . .” Anytime you offer this conjunction, you are attempting to justify your actions.

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