Being a good leader doesn’t mean you have to be perfect. On the contrary, the one top tested behavior when it comes to positively impacting your team’s job satisfaction and plan to stay is your ability to admit when you are wrong.

Previously, research across 3,100 employees in 13 countries revealed that the largest gap in leadership behavior between what matters to employees and what is perceived to be consistently demonstrated by supervisors is: ‘admitting when they are wrong.’

Eighty-one percent of employees considered it important or very important for leaders to admit mistakes, but only 41 percent felt their bosses consistently did so.

Whew. Ok that seems like great news! The pressure is off to be perfect!

But the reality is that being able to admit mistakes isn’t necessarily an easy thing to do. At least not at first. It requires a level of self-confidence and self-compassion with a little courage thrown in.

Making a mistake as a leader is a public experience and can bring up shame, an emotion that Brené Brown has researched for years. She talks about how we experience shame: “I am bad. The focus is on self, not behavior. The result is feeling flawed and unworthy of love, belonging, and connection. Shame is not a driver of positive change.” (Brené Brown, Atlas of the Heart)

If you falsely associate making a mistake with being fundamentally flawed and unworthy of love, then you will want to avoid that feeling by hiding your mistake, blaming others, or making excuses.

And it doesn’t help that our culture celebrates overconfident leaders, creating a false belief that admitting mistakes makes you look weak, vulnerable, and exposed. It also creates a false reality where we can believe that you have to know everything to appear powerful and effective.

But as Brené said, “Shame is not a driver of positive change.” And those you lead want a leader who can own mistakes, resulting in a leader they trust. So, what can you to do to build your mistake-owning muscles as leaders?

Brené shares from her research that the antidote to shame is empathy. If you reach out and share your mistake and feelings about it with someone you trust who responds with empathy, that helps dissipate shame. Shame makes us feel alone and that we need to hide. Talking about it and receiving empathy removes its power. Secondly, self-compassion where you bring gentleness to yourself and embrace your humanity and emotions has a big impact. Remember no one wants a leader who believes they are supreme being. They want someone human who can own their mistakes and create a safe space for them to also not be perfect.

OK, so you are working on your response to making mistakes. What do you do and say to your team when you make one?

Let’s say that because you were worried about revenue, you decided to require each MGO to make a specific number of asks over a certain level before the end of the year. Your team reached their goal, and you were proud of your tough leadership approach of setting a high bar. But then you overheard a few stories of fundraisers feeling pressured to ask donors for significant gifts with no previous relationship. You may have reached your goal, but now you see that you sacrificed donor relationships. And, at some level, you sacrificed your team’s heart and soul on the altar of needing the money. What do you do?

When you first hear the stories, lean in and talk to your fundraisers about how the KPIs impacted them and their donor relationships. Spend time understanding their experience and then come back with these steps in communication:

Own Your Mistake

Address the mistake openly and honestly with your team with no excuses or blame on others.

Embrace Empathy

Your decision, even though it may have been made with the best intentions, caused harm to your team and to donors. Having empathy for the harm you caused is important in rebuilding trust.

Be Grateful for the Learning

Speak to how this was an important learning for you. This reinforces to your team that the focus is on learning from your mistakes in a gracious and empathic way.

Model Change

Take the feedback and explore how to do things differently. Using our example, bring the new KPIs you are researching to your team for an open discussion on best practices and way forward. This isn’t about having them decide everything, but it gives everyone an opportunity to understand the whole picture and for you to see the impact of decisions you make.

If you are committed to being an authentic leader who others trust, here is one way to take it a step further.

One of the leaders I admire most in my work is Joyce MacDonald, President and CEO of Public Media. I have watched Joyce repeatedly get bold and successful initiatives accomplished because of the way she engenders trust and collaboration through her authentic leadership style.

I had also personally experienced making a mistake, even more than one over the years, and Joyce was very gracious when I came with an apology. When I asked her about this subject, Joyce shared that she has said this to individuals, teams, and bosses and it has NEVER backfired on her: “I screwed up. It’s 100% my fault and I’m sorry.”

But Joyce takes it one step further. Joyce makes it safe for her team to make mistakes because she owns hers, is gracious when they own theirs, and she carries the load of responsibility when mistakes are made. She tells her team: “If this succeeds, you’ll get all the credit – and if it fails, I’ll take 100% of the blame.”

Wow! This tells her team that she trusts their judgment and that NO ONE ELSE goes under the bus! The result of this is a team who will take risks, be innovative, and retention is high because they have a leader they trust.

Take a moment and rank yourself on a 1-10 scale on how you approach owning mistakes, with 1 being that you are completely uncomfortable doing so and 10 being that you feel entirely comfortable owning your mistakes and being gracious with others.

And if you want to really understand how you’re doing with this, you can ask trusted mentors to give you feedback on how you’re doing as an empathetic leader.

This all may be uncomfortable at first, but it’s the key to transformational leadership.