Leadership Accountability Lessons from Warren Buffett

Linda Dulye's picture

warren-buffett.jpgEvery year around this time, investors wait eagerly for Warren Buffett’s annual letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders.

The Oracle of Omaha peppers his investment insights with refreshingly candid thoughts on his own performance over the previous year. Here are a couple of examples.

Regarding the company’s struggling NetJets business: “It’s clear that I failed you in letting NetJets descend into this condition,’’ Buffett wrote.

And he added this about his idea for a GEICO credit card (GEICO is also owned by Berkshire Hathaway): “GEICO’s managers, it should be emphasized, were never enthusiastic about my idea. … I subtly indicated that I was older and wiser. I was just older.”

When was the last time you’ve heard a leader express his mistakes in such frank language? No corporate-speak, no jargon just a flat-out admission of getting it wrong.

Could you face your team – or your boss – and ‘fess up as directly as Buffett did in his letter? It takes courage to admit that your decisions didn’t turn out like you planned. And it’s even more admirable to acknowledge that others were right when you weren’t.

Think about how you can take Warren Buffett’s approach the next time one of your initiatives misses the mark. Imagine the amount of support and trust you’ll gain from your team when you show that you’re not afraid you got it wrong.


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