It is often said that we learn more from our failures than our successes. When we find ourselves managing others, it is an unfortunate reality that we will be forced to make tough decisions which will occasionally upset our subordinates. However, there are times, where the decisions we make or the procedures we implement, have unintended consequences which could potentially isolate, humiliate or compromise the reputation of our people without ever intending to do so.

This humbling lesson in leadership shared by Captain Joel Martinez via The Military Leader explains how a simple failure to clarify his intent regarding a new unit policy, left a small group of individuals feeling humiliated and undermined. As leaders, we need to recognise the strengths and weaknesses of our team, and understand that simply because they may not match our own strengths and weaknesses, does not mean that they are any less valuable to the organisation. We benefit from understanding our own conscious and unconscious bias in order to ensure that the decisions we make, methods we introduce and policies we implement are inclusive, and not solely designed to benefit those who are most similar to ourselves and how we do business.

Read the article ('Sir, you humiliated us.' – A Commander’s Lesson in Leadership) and contribute to our discussion on leadership lessons learned.

  • What checks and balances can you introduce to ensure you don't unintentionally humiliate or undermine your subordinates?
  • How do you ensure you don't consistently show favouritism to those most like yourself?
  • If you make a mistake whilst in a leadership position, is it appropriate to openly apologise to those affected, even if it is a source of embarrassment to you personally?