Taking One For The Team (And What Doing So Says About Your Leadership Style)

There's a quote attributed to legendary American jazz musician Miles Davis that goes: "If you hit a wrong note, it's the next note that you play that determines if it's good or bad."
Taking One For The Team (And What Doing So Says About Your Leadership Style)
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Editor in Chief, Entrepreneur Middle East
3 min read

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If you’re in a position of leadership, here’s a question for you: what do you do when someone in your team screws up?

Yes, to err is human and to forgive is divine, but this aphorism is rarely (if ever) what comes to our minds when we stand to lose a project or face a client’s wrath because of an error made by a subordinate. After all, it’s no fun having to take the rap for something that’s absolutely not because of your doing.

For entrepreneurs who run businesses, such situations can be especially testing- imagine having a misstep by one of your team members being the reason for the potential loss of a client or project that you had personally worked hard to secure in the first place.

It’s often said that good leaders are those who take responsibility when something goes wrong within their teams or enterprises- but does this statement take into account instances where the fault squarely falls on someone else?

As someone who’s been on both sides of the aforementioned scenario, here’s my two cents on the matter.

There’s a quote attributed to legendary American jazz musician Miles Davis that goes: “If you hit a wrong note, it’s the next note that you play that determines if it’s good or bad.” This is the sentiment I think leaders need to keep in mind when they find that someone in their teams has slipped up. Sure, the impulse would be to let them bear the brunt of their blunder- but what if you were to take the fall instead?

At first glance, this might seem like an unnecessarily selfless thing to do- but do consider the long-term implications of such an act as well. Besides the fact that it’d let your employee now have a real, consequence-free chance to learn from their mistake, imagine the amount of gratitude and goodwill it will inspire in them as well.

As Davis indicates, such situations present an employer with the choice of making the moment a horrific, humiliating memory in their employee’s minds- or it could well be a lesson in leadership they will almost certainly carry with them through the rest of their careers.

Keeping that in mind, there is really only one good answer to the question I posed at the start of this write-up- and that, according to me, is a thought worth holding on to.

Related: Eyes On The Prize: Keep Your Head Down, Your Ego In Check, And Get On With It

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