Does a leader need to say Sorry?

Does a leader need to say Sorry?

Yes, everyone makes mistake. So an apology is naturally required if he/she makes a mistake, no matter how great or how powerful the leader is. I personally have said so many sorry in just these two weeks. Is it shameful to say sorry? I would say it is a GREAT learning behind every Sorry.

Just a sharing here. I have volunteered to be the president of a Toastmasters club in Singapore called Toastmasters Club of Singapore (TMCS). Toastmasters club is an excellent platform for members to learn communication, public speaking and leadership skills. TMCS is by far the largest professional toastmasters club in the world. I am lucky enough to be given the chance to take up the important role in the club. No joke, handling a team of 15 voluntary committees and 150 members is challenging, at the same time, wonderful learning for me.

We have different groups handling different matters; one group handles membership; one handles public relations; one handles education; and others. Of course, as a “standard procedure”, we have one big committee Whatapps group and several small Whatapps groups. Would you agree? Since every group is holding different responsibilities, I tend to discuss different issues separately in the Whatapps group. I think education-related topics I just need to sort them out with my education team, and I usually do that. The previous leadership team did that too. Major decisions like how we organize a Toastmasters meeting and when we have extra meeting/function, I always discuss with my education team and make a decision. After that, I will announce the decisions to everyone via the big group. Without a second thought, I believe this is how it should work. Guess what, a committee voiced out that why the decision was made without involving her and the rest of the team! She feels left out and thinks the decisions should involve everyone as a team. She also feels disappointed. When I hear this, it is like a wrecking ball which wakes me up. We always emphasize on teamwork, but the process of making a decision has made us all working in silos. There is no communication in between! She is right. As a team,  everyone should be involved in any discussion. This gives a strong sense of teamwork to everyone. She is a committed committee and she cares about the club. Her voice is heard and I strongly agree with her. I apologize personally to her for my mistakes on this.

The mistake brings repercussions too. One time, we (small group) have planned to add 1 extra meeting to that particular month. I think this is absolutely OK and it shouldn’t have any problem. Before I even announce the planning to everyone, the same committee has overheard the idea of having one extra meeting. She asks an important question, “When is this decision to have one extra meeting made ?”. I told her, “Last week I have discussed with the education group, we will have 4 meeting next month”. She quickly throws a critical response asking if I have considered whether every committee can make it for the fourth meeting. For her, she needs to apply leave or time off to make it to the meeting because she is working in a retail industry. That question stuns me. I have taken everyone’s time and commitment for granted. I should have at least discussed with the whole team if a fourth meeting is possible. That’s one thing. And I should have announced everything I know as soon as possible for them to make their planning as well. Members also need to know that earlier so that they can adjust their schedule to attend the extra meeting. Once again I say sorry to her and the whole team for the mistake.

She also teaches me a big lesson which is; Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care. I should truly care about them by respecting, appreciating, and grooming them. If I really care, I should show the actions as actions speak louder than words.


I sound like a failed president, am I right? I feel ashamed of my mistakes. However, these mistakes are the fertilizers that grow me. Behind every apology, there is an important lesson for me. A mistake is not horrible, repeating it is terrible.

Three big lessons behind the sorry:

  1. Involve Everyone
  2. Never take things for granted
  3. Care with action

This leadership journey would undoutedly be rewarding. I shall keep an open mind and open heart to learn and grow to be a great leader.

Does a leader need to say sorry? Yes DEFINITELY!

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