The difference between getting respect...
and earning it


APOLOGIZING: Putting self aside

(Keesler News, Keesler AFB, Biloxi, MS)


By Gene Kamena,
COL, USAF, Ret, Air War College professor
Maxwell Air Force 

When the military police vehicle pulled behind my car with its blue lights flashingI knew I had screwed up. I was not wearing a seat belt.

Not a big deal? It is if you are the brigade commander in Germany    . It is if you have a policy r
equiring a week's restriction of driving privileges for 'any traffic offenseIt iif you arlefon the side of the road for forty minutes, for all to seewhile the specialist from the MP confirmyou are not on the FBI's most wanted listThat eveningI called the commanding general and informed him of mtransgression. His onlcomment was "make it right."

The next morning, as I entered the brigade headquarters and the charge of quarters dutifully called the building to attention; healso said with a wry smile: "SirI understand you had a brush with the layesterday."

I neede
to do somethingand quickly.  Leaders make mistakes; good leaders acknowledge theimistakes and if appropriateapologizeApologizing is never easyespecially for someone in a position of authority. Easy or notsometimes it is the right thing to do.


Happenstance had it that the monthly brigade run was scheduled thnext morningIn front omore than three thousand soldiers and leaders, I told the story of what happened, admitted I was wrongmade no excuseshanded my license over to the brigade command sergeant major and walked for the next week (no one ever offered me a ride).


The above story is trueI relate this very embarrassing incident witthintent of passing on what I learned about leadersmistakes and apologizing When leaders make mistakes, big or small, people notice. They notice because thewatch what leaders doIf there is a disconnect between what a leader says and what a leader doespeople will remember what a leader does Mistakes do not get better with time. My advice is to informcommunicate and remedy the situation as soon as practical.


Tell the truth and set the record straight. I am convinced had I not apologized,

  rumors would have it thaI was involved in a high-speed chase.

 Mean what you say. People will knoiyou are sincere onot.

Thercan be only one standard. Whatever thrulespolicies or practices, hold yourself to the same standard you deveryone else.


Apologizing for my misconduct was not easy, but it wathe right thing to do.   A leader must keep their ego in checkGood leaders hold themselves accountable for their mistakes, and wheaapology is required, leaders put self aside.