Recovering from a Leadership Mistake

Leadership is a complex role, and while there are numerous ways to succeed, the possibility of failure always looms. Regardless of the situation, leadership failures can have lasting effects, affecting the leader, the team, and the entire organization. While it may be difficult to admit, every leader will face some form of failure at some point in their career. However, what distinguishes good leaders from great ones is their ability to recover from those failures.

Recovering from a leadership failure is a challenging task, and it requires self-reflection, resilience, and an unwavering commitment to learning from one’s mistakes. The process can be uncomfortable, but moving forward and creating positive change is necessary. Here are some steps that leaders can take to recover from a leadership failure:

Acknowledge the Failure

The first step to recovery is acknowledging the failure. Many leaders hesitate to admit their mistakes, fearing they will undermine their authority or reputation. However, the opposite is true. Admitting a mistake shows humility and transparency, essential qualities of a good leader. By acknowledging the failure, leaders can take responsibility for their actions and begin to move forward.

Reflect and Learn

Once a leader has acknowledged their failure, the next step is to reflect and learn from the experience. This involves analyzing what went wrong, identifying the root cause of the failure, and brainstorming solutions to prevent similar mistakes from happening again. Honest self-reflection is crucial during this stage, allowing leaders to gain insights into their decision-making processes and leadership style.

Apologize and Make Amends

If the leadership failure affected team members or stakeholders, it’s important to apologize and make amends. An apology shows that the leader takes responsibility for their actions and recognizes their impact on others. Making amends involves taking concrete steps to rectify the situation and demonstrating a commitment to preventing similar mistakes in the future.

Develop an Action Plan

Once a leader has reflected and learned from the experience, developing an action plan is time. The plan should include specific goals, timelines, and actionable steps that the leader can take to prevent similar mistakes from happening in the future. This plan should also include strategies for rebuilding trust with team members and stakeholders, as trust is essential for effective leadership.

Implement and Evaluate

The final step in recovering from a leadership failure is implementing the action plan and evaluating its effectiveness. The leader should regularly monitor progress and make necessary adjustments to ensure the method works as intended. They should also seek feedback from team members and stakeholders to gauge their perception of the leader’s progress and make any necessary adjustments.

Leadership Failures don’t define you.

Leadership failures can be challenging to overcome, but leaders can recover and grow from them with resilience and a commitment to learning. By acknowledging the failure, reflecting, learning from the experience, apologizing, making amends, developing an action plan, and implementing and evaluating it, leaders can rebuild trust with their team and stakeholders and become stronger leaders.


Rich Jones is the Founder/Principal of Leading2Leadership LLC. Before starting his strategic planning agency, he spent over 20 years in leadership roles in the financial services sector. Before becoming an executive in the financial services sector, Rich was an entrepreneur, building and selling two businesses and working for early-stage start-up companies in executive roles in marketing, business development, and seeking investment partners. With more than three decades of experience, he brings innovative thought to companies and executives. Rich published “Leading2Leadership, a Situational Primer to Leadership Excellence.” The book is available on and was designed to be used as a book study for leadership development programs; it breaks leadership skills into manageable situations for discussion and reflection. Rich works with credit unions, CUSOs, and vendors, designing digital, data, culture, marketing, and branding transformation strategies. In 2014, Chosen as a Credit Union Rock Star by CU Magazine, and in 2018, Rich received the Lifetime Achievement Award from CUNA Marketing and Business Development Council. A Marine and graduate of Colorado State University, Jones shares his expertise at


  1. Brad Roteman on February 26, 2023 at 3:05 pm

    Tom Hopkins Champions Creed
    I am not judged by the number of times I fail, but by the number of times I succeed. And the number of times I succeed is in direct proportion to the number of times I can fail but keep trying.

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