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  • Writer's pictureAndrea Nicholas


I write often about triumphs, but there is no perfect in the world. Even the most seasoned leaders commit a blooper now and then. To prove it, here are a few from actual clients:

The Slip of the Tongue: One CEO was addressing a room full of employees when she accidentally referred to the company's major client as "incompetent" instead of "incomparable." Instead of panicking, she owned up to her gaffe, lightening the mood with some self-deprecating humor. Her transparency and quick wit actually strengthened her team's respect for her.

The Email Oops: An executive sent an email recognizing the efforts of a quality tester team, omitting an important letter in the team’s name. Instead of retracting it and pretending it didn't happen, this leader sent a follow-up email, apologizing for the unintended message, and vowing to improve his communication. The incident led to an office-wide chuckle and humanized him in the eyes of his team.

The Presentation Glitch: During a Town Hall meeting, organizers had inserted the wrong CFO slides in the deck. Instead of the last quarter’s numbers, a deck containing sensitive financial projections was displayed. The CFO didn't lose his cool. He reverted to the last slide of the prior executive’s deck and showed that while he walked the employees through the quarterly financials off the top of his head. The audience was impressed both by his grace under pressure and his full and complete recall of the data.

The Name Game: One VP called an employee by the wrong name during a skip-level team meeting. Instead of brushing it off, he sent the employee a thoughtful handwritten note and a playful "Name-Tag" cake. The VP’s light-hearted gesture diffused potential tension and demonstrated his value for staff employees.

Mistakes are inevitable, but how leaders handle them can set the tone for their teams. The ability to laugh at oneself, apologize when necessary, and turn mishaps into opportunities is what makes a remarkable leader. So, next time you slip up just remember, it's not the fall that defines you but how you rise and lead after it.

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