Coming To Terms With The Six Most Important Words

A-Short-Course-In-Human-Relations-as-amended (1)

I’ve written several times about one of my favorite leadership lessons, “A Short Course in Human Relations”  (click on image at left for a PDF of the slide)

Today my thoughts are focused on one part of that lesson, the “6 most important words”, triggered by the recent firing of Groupon CEO Andrew Mason.

“I admit, I made a mistake”

Mason publicly admitted his failure when he published his resignation note on Twitter (and also threw in, for good measure, some characteristic humor – the full text of the note is here, if you haven’t yet seen it).

The note has garnered a lot of publicity, because of it’s stark honesty.

He failed.

Many leaders never will utter those words, because there’s a part of us that feels that we can’t show weakness.  We HAVE to be strong and confident – projecting an aura of near-infallibility.

Because if we do admit that we can be (and are) wrong, then our teammates, bosses and peers will think less of us.

That’s a powerful pull to the hubris lever.

But it’s a pull that must be resisted.

If anything can be learned from Mason’s public admission of failure and its aftermath, it’s that being honest and transparent about our failings will actually INCREASE the respect we’ll get from that show of humanity.

We don’t want our leaders to be soulless robots.

We want them to be humans, just like us.

Humans we can relate to and connect with.

Why else would this Tweet have gotten so much attention?

Because “I admit, I made a mistake” are truly the six most important words a leader can ever say.

And the sooner every leader can come to terms with those words, and not fear the vulnerability that comes with them, the better leaders they will be.

Andrew Mason has crossed that bridge, and now, in his words, he’ll  “figure out how to channel this experience into something productive“.

My guess is that he certainly will.




  1. says

    Terry, great post – I love the graphic and the message is vital to anyone who has leadership aspirations.


  2. says

    One of the great traits of my boss is that he encourages us to fail. When we do something outside of our comfort zone, it means we are trying to do something new, learn new skills or grow. By punishing mistakes or looking down on failure, you send the wrong message – the message to not try to do more or improve yourself. Failing is a part of life and you need to accept it for what it is – a learning experience.


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