October 18, 2022

The Best Leaders Teach Their Mistakes


Have you ever made a mistake? Well, of course, you have! We have all made mistakes. But I am not talking about your run-of-the-mill error. For example, you purchased the wrong type of printer cartridge or the wrong size shirt.

I am wondering if you have ever made a potential career-ending mistake. For example, maybe you made a math error, which cost the organization a significant amount of money, or you trusted someone who took advantage of you and the organization.

While I have not made a math error or hired someone who violated my trust, I have made many mistakes during my career. Fortunately, none of my mistakes were career-ending.

Early in my career, I made a significant mistake. I assigned a task to a team member who dropped the ball and did not complete the assignment on time. As a result of their missed deadline, they put our project significantly behind schedule.

When I met with my supervisor, they were not happy. After they calmed down, my supervisor explained how the delay would result in a substantial cost increase and adversely impact the production schedule.

As I sat in their office, listening to my supervisor tell me how disappointed they were, I wondered if I would still have a job. However, once my supervisor finished their explanation of serious of the situation, they looked at me, and instead of firing me, they asked me a thought-provoking question.

It was a great question. In fact, I still ask the same question to individuals I lead. So what was the question? My supervisor asked me, “what lessons did I learn from the situation?” As I sat there pondering my response, my supervisor told me to come back tomorrow to discuss my answer.

Well, as you can imagine, I spent most of the night preparing my response to their question. As a result, when I met with my supervisor the next day, I had two pages of notes. I explained every stepped I had taken and what I would do differently next time.

When I finished, my supervisor asked me another question. What was the question? They asked when I would sit down with my team and ask them the same question.

My supervisor explained my lessons learned were not just for me. They were also for the benefit of my team. As the leader, I was responsible for developing my team. Therefore, sharing my mistakes would help my team grow.

Now I would like to tell you I was excited to meet with my team; however, that would not be truthful. But I knew my supervisor would follow up with me on the outcome of the meeting, so I put pride aside and met with my team.

While the team wasn’t sure what to expect from the meeting, they did appreciate my vulnerability. As a result, over the next couple of months, I noticed a shift in the team dynamics. Instead of pointing fingers at others, they acknowledge their mistakes.

“Leaders who value the lessons that mistakes and failures offer have an opportunity to use them to make others better. The best leaders don’t just learn from their mistakes, they teach them.”


Accepting responsibility for your mistakes is the first step as a leader. However, to help your team grow, share your mistakes and lessons learned.

Are you teaching your mistakes to grow your team?


Want more expert educational leadership guidance? View the Moore Leadership Moment on YouTube.

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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.