5 Sorry Sorries to Avoid as a Leader

Like Don't move Unlike

Updated from April 15, 2013 post

This week I watched some news coverage of yet another leader who was caught in a compromising situation, requiring him to issue a public apology.

The problem was that, like so many leaders, this person didn’t seem to know how to apologize.

Authentic leaders must learn the difference between an authentic, humble apology, and mere image management.

And this has brought to mind an earlier post where I outlined 5 sorry “sorries”…

One reason leaders sometimes struggle with the apology is that many fall into one of these five apology blunders. If you need to issue an apology, avoid these sorry “sorries”.

1.   The “I’m Sorry to Everyone” Apology

An apology should be limited to the person or people directly offended by the offense.

If you wronged a member of your board, you don’t have to apologize to the entire congregation.

2.   The “I’m Sorry for Everything” Apology

A friend of mine was asked by his church to issue a public apology for a series of leadership mis-steps, most of which were well beyond his responsibility.

Own your stuff, but don’t own everyone else’s stuff.

3.   The “I’m Sorry If…” Apology

Some celebrities and politicians have become masters of this one.

It usually goes like this: “I’m sorry if my drunken behavior caused you any offence…”

We hear the word “sorry”, so we think that was an apology. But it really wasn’t.

Let your “sorry” be “sorry”. Take out the “if”.

4.   The “I’m Sorry, But” Apology

Ever heard one like this?

“I’m sorry for being so rude, but I was really tired.”

Again, it sort of sounds like an apology, because it contains the word “sorry”. However, as soon as you insert the word “but”, it really isn’t an apology anymore.

5.   The “I’m Sorry…Eventually” Apology

The expression “justice delayed is justice denied” has a cousin; “An apology delayed is an apology denied.”

Don’t make the mistake of waiting too long to issue your apology. Own up as soon as reasonably possible.

Let’s face it. If you’re in leadership for any length of time, you will blow it at some point. And you will need to issue an apology.

But by avoiding these sorry “sorries” you can make your road back to credibility much smoother.

What have you learned about saying “sorry” in your leadership?

the author

Scott Cochrane

Lifelong learner, practitioner and coach of leadership, across more than 50 countries. Follower of Jesus, husband of Nora, grateful parent and grandparent.


  1. Excellent thoughts can I add one more? During the apology the offender needs to ask “what can I do to make it right” thereby putting action to correcting the offense rather than just walking away.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *