By: Warren Rustand

Leaders make mistakes, just like anybody else. And when they do mess up, it’s essential – if they want to remain credible and not lose the trust of their employees – that leaders own up to their errors and hold themselves accountable.

I had a front-row seat for one of the most egregious mistakes ever made by a high-level leader in the history of the United States. And what made it worse – for him and the country – was that President Richard Nixon didn’t own up to it, and instead tried to cover it up.

I was working in the White House then, eventually becoming Appointments and Cabinet Secretary for Gerald Ford after he replaced Nixon, who was forced to resign on Aug. 9, 1974, due to the June 17, 1972, break-in of the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate Office Building. Nixon resigned to avoid certain impeachment. He was unwilling to acknowledge that he knew about the break-in and continued to cover that up for many months, until he had no credibility left.

In the decades since Watergate, of course, we’ve often seen public figures cover up mistakes, or not being willing to express regret or acknowledge errors, and almost always the coverup is worse than the mistake.

Three great qualities of leadership are transparency, honesty and vulnerability. When a leader practices each of those qualities, his or her trust factor and respect factor among employees and peers increases. Also, the company culture can then become more solid because a strong ethical example is being set at the top. Therefore, it’s critical that a leader admit when he or she makes a mistake, and just as importantly, explain the acknowledgement as well.

See more in this weeks Boone County Journal

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