92. The Courage to Admit Failure

Season #2

As a business owner, you had a passion for the service you sell and helping others and most likely have found yourself becoming an 'accidental leader,' someone who leads not by design but by circumstance. On today’s episode of the podcast we’ll dive into accidental leadership and the power of owning up to mistakes.




Welcome to The High Performance Marketing Podcast, a show for business owners who want to create meaningful customer connections, using simple marketing and quality content. I’m your marketing guide, Ali Garbero. 

Welcome back to the show. You know, success in business is a blend of strategy, skill, and often, a few happy accidents. As a business owner, you had a passion for the service you sell and helping others and most likely have found yourself becoming an 'accidental leader,' someone who leads not by design but by circumstance. 

In this unexpected role, you face unique challenges, and amongst the hardest is admitting to and learning from mistakes. It takes courage in leadership to own up to errors, but it's this brave act that distinguishes exceptional leaders from the ordinary.

On today’s episode of the podcast we’ll dive into accidental leadership and the power of owning up to mistakes.

First, The term 'accidental leader' might hit home with you if your journey to entrepreneurship came as a surprise or you found yourself at the helm without formal leadership training. This happens a lot in corporate business - where most often it’s the people who work hard and are good at their jobs, that get thrown into managerial roles. Introverted engineers, quiet writers, or an introverted real estate agent who happens to be very good at being consistent, who is then asked to lead a sales team.

A leadership role can feel intimidating, overwhelming, and you may question your ability to guide your team effectively. Early on in my sales career I was kind of arrogant. My team leader asked me if I was ok leading a sales team of primarily men. As the oldest sibling in my family to a single mom - I thought “how hard can it be” you just tell people what to do - you never ask them to do anything you wouldn’t and there you go. 

Ha - yeah right! I went through the fire in that director of sales role. Immediately learning that not everyone is motivated by the same thing in life, and that leadership is less of the football coach style methodology that I believed it to be, and more a Yoda, guide on the side instead. 

There will be times when you be required to lead your clients as they look to you for ways to make important decisions. They will rely on you to lead them and that again - can feel like more than you signed up for. You might have believed “Hey I just wanted to show people pretty houses the way many real estate agents initially thinking about things. Or if you’re a web developer and you’re overseeing a website redesign, clients will lean on you to lead them and that will take a lot of confidence building and courage.

You should feel some comfort however that leadership isn't solely about well-crafted visions or impeccable decision-making; it's also about authenticity and vulnerability. When leaders demonstrate these qualities, they build trust and respect within their teams, with their clients and setting the foundation for an outstanding business culture.

Next, let’s talk about The Importance of Owning Your Mistakes

In an age where authenticity in leadership is more valued than ever, admitting mistakes has become a powerful tool for growth. It shows not just courage but integrity. I don’t want to get political, but remember when Bill Clinton lied to the entire nation - he emphatically looked at the camera and vehemently told us he hadn’t had any sort of affair with Monica Lewinsky. What garbage for us to be lied to that way. I think what’s hardest about trying to cover up your mistakes is that it involves not only dishonesty to yourself but to others - and when you lie, people can forgive you for it, you just make it so they don’t know when they can believe you again.

Here's why owning up to mistakes can be transformative for both you and your business:

When you admit your mistakes, you create a space where employees feel comfortable sharing their failures too. This transparency can lead to open discussions about what went wrong and how to improve.

Your team and clients respect leaders who are humble enough to acknowledge their fallibility. Trust grows when they see you as human – someone who can err, reflect, and move forward.

I remember years ago I worked for an individual who literally never allowed us to see their human side. They were perfect and the rest of us were the problem. That was a hard leader to work for and to connect with.

And you know what else? And maybe the hardest thing you will have to do as a leader is take accountability for when your team makes a mistake. The buck stops with you. I see this happen a lot in sports - where a head coach has to face the media for the way his or her players acted, the decisions they made on the field. Similarly if your assistant or a junior manager or staff member makes a mistake - you can’t go to your clients and say “oh well it was their fault.” You are the leader - you are the one who hired them.And durings those moments, you’ll need some big boy or big girl pants - because what you will want to do is use a scape goat and say “well it wasn’t my fault.” And I get it, it might not be. It might wholeheartedly be a team member you trust - but ultimately like I said - that’s that “the buck stops with you” accidental leadership thing, right?

And the great part here though is that seeing a leader take responsibility for errors encourages a "growth mindset" within the company. It becomes an environment where learning from failure is valued, which can drive innovation.

When owning up to your mistakes I’d say Admit It Quickly. When you realize you've made a mistake, address it promptly. Avoid justifications and Instead, lay out the facts and be transparent about what happened. Take Responsibility and let everyone that you're taking the mistake seriously, and it's your responsibility to fix it.

From there, plan how you intend to rectify the situation, and if applicable, involve your team in the problem-solving process. Wouldn’t it be great if the leaders of our nation could take some of this advice? Instead of playing the “well it was the previous administration, or it’s the other political party’s fault not ours.” What a different county we would be. If our leaders had the integrity and courage to admit their failures and mistakes, maybe our citizens would follow suit too.

Use mistakes as learning opportunities. Reflect on what you can do differently to prevent similar issues in the future.

Accidental leadership comes with its uncertainties, but it also offers a unique opportunity to lead with a touch of humanity. Admitting to your mistakes isn't a sign of weakness but a courageous act that can profoundly influence the success of your business. As a business owner, your willingness to embrace this can be a pivotal moment of growth for both your team and your leadership journey.

By making courage in leadership a staple of your business values, particularly when handling mistakes, you're setting a stage for authenticity and continuous improvement. Remember, it’s not about being perfect; it’s about being real, adapting, and leading with conviction—even through the mishaps.

To all the accidental leaders out there, you are more capable than you know, and your mistakes just might be your stepping stones to greatness. I’m cheering you on.

Thanks for joining me today.  I’m Ali Garbero, Copywriting is what I do, Content Marketing is what I create, more customers is what you get.