Leadership Thought of the Week: When Bad News is Good News

I spent a good deal time over last weekend thinking (when I wasn’t stressing through the Packers loss on Sunday – uck) about how to simplify the keys to good leadership – what are the tell-tale signs that show us we’re doing and saying the right things?

As I typically do, I scoured some famous quotations for inspiration, and it didn’t take long to find what I was looking for.  It was a quote by Colin Powell:

“The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help them or concluded that you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership.”

There are always going to be problems out there – nobody, and no business, is perfect.  If you are not hearing about them from your teammates, not only are you failing as a leader, you are being lulled into a false sense of security about what’s really happening – a real double whammy.

We must inspire trust and confidence as leaders, and the best evidence of this is a stream of bad news coming your way.  It sounds counter-intuitive, but it’s really not.

The upshot of getting bad news on a timely basis is that we oftentimes can take speedy action to fix it,  thus minimizing any damage to the business.  Sometimes, the action can even have a net positive impact – really making “lemonade out of the lemons“.

It’s an often cited cliché , to be  sure,  but problems can and should be opportunities.   We just need to be sure we lead well enough to hear about them.

From a leadership perspective, bad news is indeed good news. It’s an easy “gut check” we can periodically make sure we’re on the right track.

I challenged my team to do such a check this week, and I encourage you to do the same – are you getting enough bad news?


  1. says

    okay, maybe i’m being stupid, but i cannot find your email addy on your blog. was going to try to talk you through bakasana–crow. it’s pretty much all mental. there is a nice article on it in the new yoga journal which includes prep work. it’s a hard pose because we fear falling on our face so fiercely.

  2. says

    Thanks Bob and Liv for stopping by!

    Bob, the more I think about this one the more I believe it’s so important to great leadership. But it is sobering…

    Liv, I sent you an e-mail. And you are right, I don’t like falling on my face. 🙂

    All the best to you both!

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