This week, the newly appointed CEO of General Motors, Mary Barra — noted for her transformational leadership — will testify before Congress regarding the automaker’s recent ignition switch recall crisis. When she does, USA Today says she’d be wise to learn from past debacles between the automaker and Capitol Hill — for example, the auto bailout of 2008 — in what Today calls, “searing rhetoric from members of Congress who were quick to slam [previous] executives’ perceived arrogance and dwell on the companies’ mistakes.”
Fortunately, it appears Barra has learned from the past, and is not pretending to be infallible. While she states that she first learned of the decade-old problem in December 2013, she was quick to issue apologies and publicly take responsibility.
Barra’s behavior shows that leaders aren’t perfect, and they shouldn’t pretend to be. In fact, by handling their mistakes well, leaders can be an example to everyone in the organization. Here are some ways to accomplish that.
Let others fail, too: If you can make mistakes, and correct them, they can, too. There are limits to the number and severity of mistakes anyone can make in an organization, but some errors have to be allowed if you want people to take risks. Just make sure they have the room to own their errors and correct them.