5 Things You Can Never Get Back as a Leader

Screen Shot 2016-05-03 at 7.11.01 AM
Mistakes happen and sometimes our mistakes can change things permanently.

They might be the truest words ever spoken: Nobody’s perfect but things happen.

We all make mistakes. Most of the time we recover and move on, and learn something on the way if we’re paying attention.

Especially for someone in a position of leadership, though, there are some mistakes that cause lasting harm. And as the computer warning says, “This action cannot be undone.” be aware of the distinction.

Here are some mistakes you can never take back as a leader:

1. A word that’s been said. As a leader, you never want to express a bad mood with bad words. You’ll have many opportunities to change your mood, but hurtful words, once said, can never be taken back. We may worry about leaving an electronic trail with texts and e-mail, but the words we say out loud are in some ways even more permanent.

2. A stone that’s been thrown. It’s easy to judge others, but judgment often has a way of turning on us—and you may someday find yourself equally misunderstood. It’s especially important for those of us in leadership to be extremely mindful. Everything has consequences.

3. Trust that’s been broken. You cannot be a great leader without trust, built on a long steady history of being reliable, dependable and credible. Trust is the power to inspire and influence, the glue that bonds us to each other—and it’s easily broken. Leaders who understand the value of that trust will safeguard it carefully.

4. Time that’s passed. We need time to work, time to eat, time to sleep, time to accomplish all that we need to do. We also need time to know and to understand and to learn and to cultivate great relationships. Time is among the most precious of gifts, and once it’s passed it’s gone forever. Each one of us has 24 hours a day, and no one else can live it for us. It can feel infinite at times, but in truth it’s a limited and nonrenewable resource, so treat it with the care it deserves.

5. An opportunity that’s been missed. If we’re lucky, we get a chance, maybe even more than one, to get the life we want. And few things are worse than the realization that you’ve missed a life-altering opportunity. But don’t waste time grieving—instead, learn to seize the moments as they come.

There will be times we mess up, and some of them will involve things we can’t take back. The trick is to own up to our mistakes and be accountable. That’s how we earn respect and learn to do better next time.

Lead from within: Good people sometimes make bad decisions and take wrong actions; they mess up and let themselves and others down, but that doesn’t make them bad people. We all make mistakes—just don’t make the same ones twice.

Additional Reading:

How to Become A Leader You Admire
How To Make The Most Of Our Mistakes.
Let Your Leadership Speak For Itself

[box]For coaching, consulting, workshops and speaking. Please feel free to contact us. [/box]

Photo Credit: Getty Images


Lolly Daskal is one of the most sought-after executive leadership coaches in the world. Her extensive cross-cultural expertise spans 14 countries, six languages and hundreds of companies. As founder and CEO of Lead From Within, her proprietary leadership program is engineered to be a catalyst for leaders who want to enhance performance and make a meaningful difference in their companies, their lives, and the world.

Of Lolly’s many awards and accolades, Lolly was designated a Top-50 Leadership and Management Expert by Inc. magazine. Huffington Post honored Lolly with the title of The Most Inspiring Woman in the World. Her writing has appeared in HBR, Inc.com, Fast Company (Ask The Expert), Huffington Post, and Psychology Today, and others. Her newest book, The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness is being released by Portfolio May 2017.

10 Responses to “5 Things You Can Never Get Back as a Leader”

  1. Bob Vanourek

    03. May, 2016

    Another great post, Lolly. Only one minor comment. Let’s not think that trust once broken can never be regained. That would be too horrible to consider. Of course it may take super-human effort and many new deposits in one’s trust account to regain trust after it has been broken, but unlike the other four points you mention, I believe trust can be regained.

    Reply to this comment
    • Tahir Qureshi

      09. May, 2016

      Bob,

      Trust is like time. Once lost, it is difficult to restore. I had a manager who worked for us in our convenience store, and I trusted him. We had given him keys to the safe. I caught him stealing cartons of cigarettes, and I fired him. Will you ever trust a manager like him or an employee who lies on the timesheet, or an expense report? Never violate the trust of others; Never trust someone who violate your trust. Trust is fragile. Handle it with care. It takes years to build, but it can be shattered in an instant! Trust just like Time, “…once it’s passed (violated) it’s gone forever”. See #4. Never violate someone’s trust.

      Reply to this comment
    • Tahir Qureshi

      09. May, 2016

      Trust is like time. Once lost, it is difficult to restore. I had a manager who worked for us in our convenience store, and I trusted him. We had given him keys to the safe. I caught him stealing cartons of cigarettes, and I fired him. Will you ever trust a manager like him or an employee who lies on the timesheet, or an expense report? Never violate the trust of others; Never trust someone who violate your trust. Trust is fragile. Handle it with care. It takes years to build, but it can be shattered in an instant! Trust just like Time, “…once it’s passed (violated) it’s gone forever”. See #4. Never violate someone’s trust.

      Reply to this comment
  2. illahi bux

    03. May, 2016

    Great points to noticed for leaders , Lolly daskal when ever i read your blog , i feel myself refresh your selection of title and subheading are catchy and knowledgeable . which show me new direction as well . keep it up lolly !

    Reply to this comment
  3. Santosh Kanekar

    04. May, 2016

    At first glance, I felt “is this article scaring me? Do I need to watch every word I say and watch every action I take, worried that I may make a mistake?”

    But, towards the end, I realised your intention: To make us AWARE of our words and actions.

    Sometimes, we need to see starkly the consequence of our words and our actions to change our impulsive behavior.

    Your article has achieved that. As a leader, one has to be Aware of the impact they are having on people around them. This awareness leads to Emotional Intelligence and being sensitive to others around.

    I remember a leader in an organization where I used to work. He was brilliant at his work, very strategic and at the same time, could take plans to execution, full of energy and great at sales. His only foible: his words. He used to be very toxic in his words and none in the team ever wanted to work with him. Eventually, some not so conservative talk at a key stakeholder’s place led to his downfall. I wish he could have read this article earlier.

    Keep bringing out these thought provoking articles

    Reply to this comment
  4. Paty Peterson

    17. May, 2016

    Loved the article. Lolly, thank you for making stop and think.

    Reply to this comment
  5. Robert

    23. Jul, 2016

    Trust is the foundation we build lasting relationships on. Trust is lost through bad words and by being judgemental. Trust is lost in a minute and built over time. Trust presents opportunities. Trust should be the core of all we do.

    Reply to this comment
  6. CHRISTINE RUKANDA

    08. Dec, 2016

    Loved the article, without trust one can not do anything.

    Reply to this comment
  7. Hector Ortiz.

    08. Jul, 2017

    Trust is everything. Oh takes a whole life to build an indisputable reputation, but it may take just a second to lose it. Yes, many times it can be recovered, but it will never be the same… Think before saying, plan before acting and behave before just being.

    Reply to this comment

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. 5 Blogs on Leadership Entrepreneurs Must Read in 2017 April 3, 2017

    […] outlines 5 things a leader can never recover when they make a big mistake including missed opportunities, employee […]

Leave a Reply