You will make a mistake.
Most of you will do something stupid.
I know. Been there. Done that.
I really don’t like to share my experience with apologies, because it is evidence of my bad leadership. But leaders need to learn to apologize. Real apologies. Sincere apologies.
Leadership credibility will only be restored if leaders are willing to apologize. But too many leaders offer non-apology apologies. Here are five of the really bad ones:
1. “If I offended anyone . . .” This one is also called the hypothetical apology. There is really no mention of wrongdoing. It tries to put the responsibility of the apology on the offended party or parties.
2. “For whatever harm I caused . . .” Look, if you are unwilling to acknowledge your actions or words hurt people, don’t waste your breath on a non-apology like this one. You should state specifically your wrongdoing and acknowledge your awareness of it.
3. “But . . .” Anytime you offer this conjunction, you are attempting to justify your actions. If you say, “I apologize, but . . .” you are not apologizing at all. That little conjunction can do a lot of harm. It’s like telling your spouse, “I love you, but . . . "
4. Blah, blah, blah, blah. Some apologies have so many added words and sentences that you can miss the apology in the verbiage. Real apologies are not only heartfelt, they are also succinct and to the point.
5. Here is what he or she did. Simply stated, you are trying to pass the buck with language that implies guilt elsewhere. Or you may be implying that the harm you caused was really initiated by someone else.
Leaders make mistakes. Leaders do dumb things. I hope we can keep them to a minimum, but we are not going to attain sinless perfection in this life.
By the way, in leadership you may be called on to apologize on behalf of the organization or church you lead. You may not have had a specific role in the wrongdoing, but you are the leader and spokesperson for the organization. Those apologies should be as sincere and heartfelt as those for personal wrongdoing.
When you do wrong, apologize. When you apologize, do so with sincerity and contrition.
Real leaders apologize with real apologies.
I look forward to hearing from you.
This article was originally published at ThomRainer.com on September 7, 2016. Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and nine grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer.