The Best Project Leaders Admit Their Mistakes


By Ron Taylor

Virginia, USA


I am not young enough to know all the answers.

I have made plenty of mistakes and almost, but not quite, relished the opportunity to admit them. It has allowed me to let others know by example that I did not expect them to be perfect, but I did expect them to admit when they made a mistake, learn from it and move on.

The more aggressive members of your team or organization may consider someone’s willingness to admit mistakes as weakness, or try to use admitted mistakes as weapons.  If you allow them to win the day, you are in trouble.

People will not admit their mistakes if they have to defend themselves for doing so. Allowing people to revisit old mistakes and reopen old issues keeps you and your organization mired in the past while your competition is moving ahead.

One healthy way of looking at mistakes is to redefine them. Thomas Edison’s philosophy provides a great example. Edison was an American inventor, scientist and businessman who, with his team, invented the phonograph, the motion picture camera and the light bulb, among many other things. Known as “The Wizard of Menlo Park,” he turned invention into a business, and created the first industrial research laboratory.

He held over 1,000 U.S. patents during his lifetime, along with several patents in other countries. Along the way he made a lot of mistakes, but he defined them in positive terms. When asked about his many failures, he responded: “I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”  If Edison can redefine mistakes, we can too.

There are a lot of common-sense reasons to admit your mistakes beyond merely being an example to others. One of them is that no matter how hard you try to hide your own mistakes, you are almost doomed to fail. Other people are going to find out about your mistakes. They will spread the word, and pretty soon everyone will be hiding their mistakes as well. You will not only lose credibility when you try to hold people accountable, you will also lose access to information that can help you make decisions that can prevent minor issues from developing into major problems.


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About the Author

Ron Taylor MBA, PMP

Virginia, USA




Ron Taylor
is an internationally-known leader, lecturer, author, and consultant, and the principal and founder of the Ron Taylor Group.  Ron served as President and CEO of a 10,000-person organization (PMIWDC) and was named Leader of the Year by the 500,000-person Project Management Institute (PMI®).

Ron is an Adjunct Professor in the MBA Programs at both Virginia Tech and George Mason University.  He is represented by the Washington Speakers Bureau, and his latest book, Leadership: Stories, Lessons and Uncommon Sense, is available on Amazon.  Ron can be reached at [email protected]

To view other works by Ron Taylor, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at http://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/ron-taylor/.