June 21st, 2012
09:36 AM ET

Letters to the President #1249: 'Rule four: Admit it'

Reporter's Note: President Obama is running for re-election. This week I’m writing my favorite guidelines for any politician who wants to win.

Dear Mr. President,

Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone. Paupers and Presidents alike.

Rule four: Admit it.

This is a tough one, I know. I’ve never met a single U.S. President who seems to readily admit when he was wrong, no matter how many years we are past the issue under discussion. To a soul, I’ve heard them vigorously defend every decision, no matter how disastrously it turned out. Oh, I’m sure there must be some exceptions but I can’t remember any at the moment.

The strange thing is I believe the greatest leaders are always those who most readily admit when they have made a mistake.

Admitting you’ve done something wrong may be seen as weakness in D.C., but I have always known it to be a sign of genuine strength. Who doesn’t admit his failings? A person who is afraid. A person who lacks the courage to face the facts. A person who is deceiving himself, and therefore is likely to deceive you as well.

Sure, there is risk involved. Your followers may lose faith. You may be ridiculed. In the rough and tumble world of politics, admitting a mistake can have dire consequences. But I think Presidents should ask themselves a basic question. Do you want to be just a president, or a great leader? There truly is a difference. And great leaders achieve that goal not by always being right, but instead by admitting when they are wrong…so they can get onto the right path again.

More tomorrow.


soundoff (No Responses)

Comments are closed.