3 bad things good leaders say.

The difference between a good leader and a bad leader is pretty obvious. You could write a book about this subject, but since this is a blog, I will keep it short.

Good leaders embrace their imperfections. Bad leaders pretend they don’t have any.

Good leaders know how to lead from their weakness. Bad leaders know how to hide their weakness.

Good leaders own their mistakes when they make one. Bad leaders delegate their mistakes to someone else when they make one.

More than just those distinctions, there are 3 bad things good leaders say.

1. I don’t know.

2. I did that.

3. I was wrong.

Why are these bad things? Because they have the appearance of weakness about them. These are also bad because they are not fun to admit. They feel a little scary. But if you saw that list and you can’t remember the last time your leader said them, you are in trouble. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but a bad leader is eventually found out.

You’re not perfect. Neither am I. Neither are leaders. Let’s stop holding them to super human standards. Our inability to create spaces they can be honest in is part of the reason we have this problem. We can’t ask our leaders to be honest and then stone them when they are.

Great leadership starts with great followers.

Let’s admit we’re wrong and support the leaders who dare to say the same.

Long live the leaders who know that weakness is a strength.

  • Zechariah
    Posted at 11:12h, 22 March Reply

    So true Jon. When I bought my first business I was so concerned that others “respected” me I was a terrible leader. Our pain, mistakes, and imperfections is what makes a great leader. One that people can truly respect.

    Those three statements you named are powerful ones they are ones of removing a stupid mask of pretending that we have it all together.

    Thanks for keeping it real:)

  • Chuck
    Posted at 11:34h, 22 March Reply


    As a manager and leader fo 15+ years I agree with you. I would also add that those three statements are usually followed up by good leaders with the following statements.

    I dont know, but let find out.

    It is important to know that you don’t know everything, but be willing to find the answer.

    I did that and this is why.

    Good leaders are responsible and they can answer why they did something. Good leaders can explain their decision making.

    I was wrong, thank you for pointing that out.

    It not just about admitting you were wrong but being grateful when someone can point it out.

  • Vincy
    Posted at 11:58h, 22 March Reply

    “Long live the leaders who know that weakness is a strength.” That’s profound! And very needed today.

    I recently went through a season of admitting to a very tough childhood. That was something I was terrified of admitting to – I was too ashamed of my past living in the slums of Mumbai. It’s not something to brag about. I was teased at school for that, and the hurt still remained. So, I kept silent about it for years. And I went about like I never had a past as difficult and hard as that.

    I realized my mistake recently. I prayed about it. Made peace with it. Admitted to it. And I was amazed when people began embracing my past as I did. Some identifying with it. And it finally became a blog-post – so now the world knows too!

    It’s true, we need leaders who are weak. That is their strength.

    • Irene kinyua
      Posted at 14:23h, 22 March Reply

      . Thats very courageous of you. I did the same but in different field. It sure brought freedom!

    • Julie DeJarnette
      Posted at 07:46h, 23 March Reply

      Good for you, Vincy. There is such freedom in showing our scars.

  • Matt Ham
    Posted at 12:06h, 22 March Reply

    Jon – I call this The Leadership Facade and it’s ruining our culture today. Thanks for being bold and putting this out there.

  • Ronnie Barnes
    Posted at 13:34h, 22 March Reply

    The Lord was speaking to me about this today. As a pastor, i have to be very careful what I say, because saying “sorry” is harder as a leader; it certainly implies that you imposed your wrong idea, thought, opinion over someone else, probably empowered by your position as their leader. It takes humility and a steady confidence in your security as a person and a leader to right those wrongs, and maneuver them gracefully. you can gain respect coming out of it, in fact!

  • Nick
    Posted at 13:51h, 22 March Reply

    I’m building an entire brand, staring an entire movement, on those three things and how they relate to marriage! I thought I knew… And then I realized I didn’t, I screwed up, and I was wrong.

    Almost like you were talking to me.

    • Hugh Brown
      Posted at 14:29h, 22 March Reply

      Any man that thinks he has marriage figured out has already taken the first step towards failure.

  • Tammy
    Posted at 17:29h, 22 March Reply

    We recently experienced this at my former company. New leader comes in from outside the industry (fine), and promptly replaces top three layers of leadership with former colleagues and childhood friends (insecure). In addition to the myriad of mistakes committed by people who didn’t know better and didn’t bother to learn about their new industry, there was an unwillingness to admit any fault or responsibility on the leader’s actions. He finally left last year, but the company was left in pieces. It was so hard to see such potential in the company squandered.

  • Joey E
    Posted at 17:53h, 22 March Reply

    “Let’s admit we’re wrong & support the leaders who dare to say the same.” Very powerful, & convicting.

  • Tyler
    Posted at 22:27h, 22 March Reply

    All three things listed require being honest and vulnerable. A leader willing to be both honest and vulnerable is rare thing.

  • Jami Kaeb
    Posted at 22:50h, 22 March Reply

    I love this! When I first became a leader of a ministry nearly 3 years ago, I was so insecure and focused way too much on being a “Good Leader.” Now, instead of focusing so much on being a good leader, I am focusing on being a Faithful Follower of Jesus. He will lead me and then I can lead others. I had a really hard start — made mistakes that I have learned from and for that I am really thankful. Continuing on this journey – following Him and learning as I go.

    Love your blog! 🙂

  • Kimanzi
    Posted at 13:01h, 23 March Reply

    Definitely a few things I need to work on in my leadership.

  • Stephanie
    Posted at 13:45h, 23 March Reply

    I hold HIGH respect for leaders who admit fault and that accept and share their weaknesses.

    The more visible I become, the more people can start to be critical. I’m all about sharing your opinions, but when your opinion nit-picks the leaders with larger platforms for making mistakes I am quick to defend those leaders.

  • Jason Weakley
    Posted at 17:44h, 23 March Reply

    In 2012 I made a $4,500 mistake and one that could have broken the law if it had not been discovered when it was – which is why it wound up costing my employer almost 5K.
    As soon as it was discovered I admitted my mistake, owned it, and apologized for it.
    I won’t rose color things, it was a tense moment and one I wasn’t able to recover from. There was nothing I or anyone could do to make it right again. These moments are difficult but we live and learn through them.

  • Jake
    Posted at 18:54h, 23 March Reply

    I think it’s also crucial for parents to be able to say those three things. How many of us had parents who would never admit they were wrong? How many of us didn’t have a Voice because our parents covered their mistakes with “because I said so” or “don’t argue with me”?

  • Theresa
    Posted at 08:58h, 24 March Reply

    Shoot… your email was perfectly timed yet hard… I made a mistake earlier this year and its consequences have been looming… I was one of many people to make a small error which made for a ugly mistake… but I do need to own my part in the problem… especially as leader.

    Thanks for your encouragement!

  • JT Adamson
    Posted at 17:05h, 25 March Reply

    1. I knew that.
    2. I’ve done that.
    3. I was right.

    Wait…does that make me a bad leader?

    But seriously, this is so true.

    Now, here comes the juke: Jesus was a great leader who didn’t do 1 and 3, since 1- He knew that, and 3 – He wasn’t wrong. However, I ain’t him.

    And the fact He did 3 and 1 makes a very Trinitarian sounding argument, no?

  • Ruben Cortez
    Posted at 19:30h, 26 March Reply

    I think that leadership is not displaying that you are made of iron but letting everyone know that even though your human, you can still maintain a higher standard of living to fulfill your responsibility. And I think that’s what God intended us to know. When you look at the Bible and see all the great men of God, you can read about all there accomplishments and wow moments but at the same time, the Bible doesn’t hide there weakness and failures. Can you imagine Moses writing the book Exodus and having to pen down him killing an Egyptian? or Jonah writing about his rebellion. The bible says that Elijah was a man of like passions. He was a man just like us yet in one instance he called fire from heaven but just one page over and he was running in fear from Jezebel. Leadership is not hiding your weakness but its being real , overcoming them and helping some people along the way. -Ruben Cortez http://www.thechristianonfire.com

Post A Comment

Get all of Jon’s new blog posts in your inbox!

Yes! Send Me Jon’s New Blog Ideas


Get All of Jon's New Ideas!

We won't send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time. Powered by ConvertKit