The Skill Every Leader Must Master

There are many qualities necessary in a successful leader. They need to be bright, ambitious and competent communicators. But the most powerful leaders have an uncanny ability to build trust and confidence among their teams. They do this most effectively with one simple skill … forgiveness.

It’s easy to build faith when everyone is doing everything right. But people aren’t robots and even the best performers will have moments when they will fail spectacularly. It’s at that critical point that true leadership shines. The leader who can forgive and rebuild the trust and confidence is the leader who can overcome any challenge or obstacle.

As we move forward through 2017, it is essential to rid our selves of lingering tension and focus on the insights below to help us forgive those on our team or in our businesses who fell short of our expectations. Of course we should all start by forgiving the biggest offender … ourselves.

1. Make Admission Easy

There is nothing worse than finding out about a transgression long after it happened. Often the cover-up is more detrimental than the original offense, creating future suspicion and distrust. A great leader fosters an atmosphere of openness where teams can safely share their mistakes. Great leaders allow for less-than-perfect human behavior and proactively communicate the benefits of sharing and learning from failures. By creating a consistent and safe process for feedback and evaluation, teams will be comfortable with the uncomfortable aspects of examining areas to improve.

2. Omit the Need for Explanation

No one benefits from a long list of excuses. Sometimes mistakes just happen. There may not be a rational explanation for a transgression and ultimately you shouldn’t need one in order to forgive. Great leaders don’t focus on pinpointing blame; instead, they help the team grow from the experience. Evaluating circumstances to learn from mistakes has merits but, once the academic study is over, move on to rebuilding trust.

3. Treat Apologies as a Bonus

Is it truly critical to hear those two words every time something goes wrong? So often the words “I’m sorry” sound empty and are easily thrown into the mix without sincerity. Great leaders are attentive to their teams’ emotions and look for genuine acknowledgement and contrition. They encourage their teams to demonstrate real concern for the well-being of those around them, with or without words.

4. Empower People to Make Amends

Diligent people are most often hardest on themselves. They know when they have messed up and they will beat themselves up, distracting focus from the important issues that need addressing. Through process and example, great leaders can help their teams forgive themselves. They prioritize encouragement and resolution, motivating teams to quickly resolve their issues and rebuild mutual trust.

5. Find a Path Forward

No one is best served by harping on failure and mistakes. They need to be examined, learned from and then left behind. Great leaders keep their teams focused on the future and make sure everyone reengages in the journey ahead. After a major fail, they use structure, process and communication to help move on and strive together for the next success.

Like this column? Sign up to subscribe to email alerts and you’ll never miss a post.

Want more Kevin? Here are 3 more columns by Kevin available on Inc.

Kevin Daum is an award winning and bestselling author of 5 books. He is a marketer, speaker, and columnist for Inc.com and Smart Business Magazine. As an Inc. 500 entrepreneur, his sales and marketing techniques resulted in more than $1 billion in sales. Drawing on his background in theatre and business, Kevin is a compelling speaker who has engaged and inspired audiences around the globe. Kevin is a graduate of the MIT Entrepreneurial Masters program and has received the Global Learning Award 3 times from the Entrepreneur’s Organization, where he held several board positions. Kevin has designed, produced, and led award-winning executive training programs and events for C-level executives and entrepreneurs on four continents. Previously, Kevin was named one of the 40 people to watch under 40 in San Francisco by the Business Times and in 2006 was named Distinguished Alum of the Year by his alma mater, Humboldt State University.