Never Walk Past a Mistake

For great leaders, standards of quality matter. Standards help to define people, teams and organizations. Former Senator Bob Kerrey suggests that, “If you walk by something that is substandard, and you do nothing, it becomes the new standard.” When we think about that statement for a moment, it makes perfect sense. Standards are what we live with and accept, not what we aspire to. 

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell observes that true leaders never walk past a mistake. He recommends, whenever possible, that leaders work to correct mistakes on the spot. For Powell, correcting a mistake underscores the moral courage a leader must have to speak up when quality is slipping. Moreover, the attention to detail sets an example for others to follow — which is critical for success. 

When we think about the standards we want others to emulate, the most important consideration is what we accept and tolerate. Leaders who refuse to ignore mistakes, especially small ones, raise the standards for everyone. Great leaders have high standards, and one of those standards is to insist others have them, as well.