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As principals, we often talk about how to handle bad decisions made by our teachers. We believe there are lots of things we can do to alleviate the consequences of those decisions. But when we’re the ones who make the bad decision—the ones who “blow it”—it’s a more difficult matter as our leadership and personal egos are involved. What can you do?

  1. The first thing to do is recognize that bad decisions are going happen. They happen for many different reasons: personal animosity, unthinking moments, incomplete information, lack of understanding of the cultural milieu, or the right action at the wrong time.
  2. Have a forthright conversation with yourself about how you want to deal with this mistake. You may seek others for advice, but ultimately the responsibility to correct the problem is yours.
  3. Determine what actions need to be taken to alleviate the situation. These need to be concrete actions—not delaying tactics or “study groups” to learn what went wrong. Your ownership of the mistake is critical, and your leadership in having remedies either underway or beginning is necessary.
  4. Publicly own up to the decision without equivocation or evasion. One sure way to rebuild your credibility is to admit your error, apologize, make amends to those who may have been wronged (both publicly and privately), and initiate corrective action. Equally, one sure way to further tarnish your credibility is to try to avoid admitting the mistake by blaming others, parsing words, or attempting to “spin” your way out it.

Certainly, backing away from bad decisions is no way to establish credibility and leadership. But when it happens, it can be a learning opportunity for you and, if done right, an opportunity to enhance your leadership status.



This article originally appeared in an issue of our monthly publication NorthStar for Principals.

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