Have you ever made a big mistake? Yes, I know we have all made mistakes. But I mean, a huge mistake? You know the kind of mistake that gets the attention of your boss’s boss! Hopefully, you have not made a career-ending mistake.

I have made a few mistakes during my career. While most of my mistakes have been minor, there were two incidents where I was unsure how they would impact my career.

So, I know you are wondering what happened, right? Well, the situation’s particulars are not as important as the outcomes. So, while both mistakes rose to the level of my boss’s boss, I didn’t get terminated.

Now, I know you are wondering why not? Because I took ownership of the mistakes. When I was asked what happened in each situation, I did not explain my actions. Instead, I said, “I made a mistake, and I accept responsibility for the outcome and consequences.”

In each situation, when I met with my boss afterward, they stated my approach was refreshing and disarming. One boss told me I displayed courage. As a result, I only received a slap on the wrist.

While I learned several personal lessons in each situation, I also learned a valuable leadership lesson. As a leader, taking ownership is critical to your success.

According to Jared Narlock, “ownership is leadership.” However, as a coach and mentor, I have noticed a disturbing trend with some leaders. They want the title and perks of leadership but not the responsibility.

Recently I had a conversation with an aspiring leader. They were excited about getting promoted. When I asked what they were looking forward to, their response focused on being in charge. When I asked who would be responsible for any mistakes made by the team, the answer was “the individual member of the group.”

Over the next several minutes, we discussed the responsibilities of the leader. While leaders receive all the praise and accolades, great leaders give all the credit to their teams. Why? Because when a leader shares the credit, it builds trust and confidence and enhances productivity.

“Leaders don’t blame. They take ownership.”

-Dr. Henry Cloud

As we ended our conversation, I reminded the aspiring leader that as the leader, you are responsible and accountable for your team. Leaders are responsible for how the team performs. Therefore, they take ownership of the team’s successes and failures.

Are you taking ownership of your mistakes?



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Dr. Kim Moore

About the author

I'm Kim, your Educational Leadership Guide. I equip educational leaders with research-based and experientially learned educational leadership principles and best practices to promote student success.