Leadership means always being ready to say “I’m sorry”. Sometimes even when it’s not necessary nor needed.
It’s a disturbing trend, both in our personal and professional lives.
The simple art of offering an apology.
Perhaps it started with the tee shirt attitudes of “I APOLOGIZE FOR NOTHING”. Maybe it was as people watched their celluloid heroes on screen offer no apologies, they decided that was the “cool” thing to do. Or it could be an outcropping of our current malaise infecting our elected officials, few of whom seem prepared to apologize for anything even if it’s blatantly obvious they failed to speak the truth or did indeed say something that could be taken as hurtful to others.
Who knows? It could be traced back to a sappy movie from 1970 that delivered what I personally believe is the worst advice ever given when it comes to apologizing.
Perhaps we are still a Nation in the thrall of Arthur Fonzarelli, who could never say he was….you know…..the “W” word.
Whatever the case, we have stopped becoming a Nation, a people, that is willing to simply say “I’m sorry”. And it’s part of what’s causing a breakdown in leadership.
A Congressman appearing at an event told what some considered a crude joke. Granted, there were likely those in the audience who didn’t think twice about it and laughed it off. But there was a considerable number of others who felt it was in bad taste and simply unnecessary. So he did the right thing. As quickly as the incident exploded, he issued an apology.
University of Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster let his temper get the best of him and had an altercation with a hospital worker at the 2017 NFL Combine, where most players seek to be on their best behavior as they seek to show teams why they should be on their roster. After being tossed out of the Combine for being something of a jerk, Foster issued a letter of apology to every NFL team. Granted, whether or not this was a sincere apology is certainly up for discussion. I covered professional sports for many years and know all too well statements such as these are more often than not pressed upon players by agents, lawyers, and those who understand the need to seem contrite in order to get a fatter contract. This apology took 2 days to deliver, so it would seem somewhat contrived. It should have been immediate and without the hint of someone else getting involved.
And then there is noted neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson, who in his first address to member of the Department of Housing and Urban Development as their new Secretary, he compared salves being brought to America with immigrants who came to these shores seeking a better life. In the uproar that followed, Carson chose to blame the media for the reaction and offered no apology.
However, I was able to find a sincere, honest and heartfelt apology that has been making the rounds on social media and in local news. Interestingly enough, it came from a child. In this case, both parties showed exceptional integrity and leadership.
There is nothing wrong with saying “I’m sorry”. There is nothing demeaning about it. It doesn’t make us any less of a person, and maybe it’s long past time we gave up that chest-thumping attitude of “I’LL NEVER APOLOGIZE FOR ANYTHING I SAY OR DO!”. It’s counter-productive. It leaves behind a bad taste. And it says something about the person who thinks apologizing is in some manner “backing down”.
I’ll make this personal from my broadcasting career. A newly minted Manager once said to me, “I’m your boss. I don’t have to apologize for anything”. Sad thing is he said this to many people, apparently in order to show who was really in charge.
Neither I nor anyone else ever trusted him again. There was no respect for him whatsoever. Those who worked under him never trusted him, and it made for a toxic workplace until the day he was fired.
There are plenty of times I have said “I’m sorry” to the people I love and the people I work with. If I even sense the slight possibility I may have gone over a line, I will apologize. Many times the person on the other end will say “it’s really not necessary”, “don’t worry about it”, or perhaps even come back with “hey, I was wrong as well. I’m sorry, too”.
Both sides walk away with a better understanding of each other, and whatever controversy there was just melts away.
Of course, its not automatic salve to a deep wound. Words and actions can cut deep, and just because we say we’re sorry doesn’t automatically mean the person or people on the other end will readily accept it. But it’s the chance we take in taking responsibility for our actions, being held accountable for our words, and seeking to show real leadership.
We need to be prepared that our apology won’t be accepted at first, perhaps never. But it’s what WE do with our image, our sense of responsibility and our integrity that is paramount.
Those words don’t make us any less of an individual. In fact, it increases our stature both in our personal lives and in the workplace.
And in the grand scheme of things, they can make the world just a small slice better for everyone.
Be human. Be the best you can be. Be accountable to yourself and seek to make the world a little better. It doesn’t cost a thing, and in the end what you get back could be immeasurable.
I’m sorry if this doesn’t sit well with your idea of what the words means. But the question needs to be asked and answered.
What’s so wrong with apologizing?
Not a damn thing.