Leadership and Mistakes: Navigating the Do’s and Don’ts

Today, I’d like to talk about mistakes.

Here are a couple of Do’s and Don’ts for leaders.


  1. Embrace the oopsies: Mistakes happen, even to the best of us. Normalizing these blunders creates an atmosphere of safety and openness, allowing for valuable learning experiences (Edmondson, 1999). Let’s all embrace our collective goof-ups and grow from them.

What might be a real-life leadership script for these situations? “I’ve seen that mistake made many times by the best of us on staff.”

  1. Be vulnerable in the right moments with your team. Admitting to your own mistakes creates a foundation of trust (Coyle and Damron, 2018). After all, we’re all human, and even leaders can trip over their own shoelaces from time to time.

What might be a real-life leadership script? “I’ve made that same mistake.”


  1. Play the blame game: Pointing out employees’ mistakes, especially in a public or judgmental manner, rarely leads to improved confidence or performance. Instead, it erodes relationship trust (Brown, 2017). It leaves them feeling attacked. Employees tend to rationalize mistakes that are brought to their attention and rarely believe negative feedback (Haden, 2022). Instead, let’s focus on constructive support and empowering questions (i.e., “What is another way we can do that and how can I help,”) rather than catching them being bad.
  1. Amplify mistakes with fireworks: When faced with employee slip-ups, resist the urge to unleash a fireworks display of frustration. Reacting with anger or annoyance only reinforces their feelings of incompetence, reduces motivation, and shuts down communication (Brown, 2017; Edmondson, 1999; Rock, 2020). We want to foster a learning environment where mistakes are seen as opportunities for growth, not reasons for defensiveness.


In the 1999 World Cup, Brandi Chastain accidentally scored on her own goal (Mandell, 2018). Carla Overbeck didn’t berate her; instead, she offered encouragement, saying, “Don’t worry, Brandi. We’ve got plenty of game left, and together we’ll win.” Elite teams can’t afford finger-pointing or body language that screams, “What were you thinking?” The moral of the story is to support and adapt in the face of mistakes as the team moves forward. Mistakes can be transformed into powerful learning moments if we approach them with reflection and a growth mindset.

Remember, as a leader, it’s your duty to help your employees become the best versions of themselves. That means creating an environment where they can think clearly, feel inspired, and turn their mistakes into stepping stones towards greater competence.

See you soon-

~ Tim