Skip to comments.Public figures in 'sorry' state - Mastering art of high-profile apology a key leadership test
Posted on 02/10/2007 10:03:44 PM PST by SmithL
Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi wrote an impassioned front-page apology to his furious wife. Delaware Sen. Joe Biden has done the heartfelt public mea culpa -- twice now -- and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has done it repeatedly the past few years, for everything from off-the-cuff musings to Hollywood star-era bad behavior.
So San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom's pained public apology Feb. 1 for an affair with the wife of his campaign manager served as a high-profile initiation into a growing club -- that of prominent public figures who have had to say "I'm sorry" in the glare of very big headlines.
As Newsom proved last week, there's a fine art to the delicate problem of making a public apology -- and not everyone navigates the crucial steps to make it effective, said Barbara Kellerman, a lecturer at the Center for Public Leadership in Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government.
"A leader's apology is a performance in which every expression matters and every word becomes part of the public record," Kellerman wrote in her extensive study published in the Harvard Business Review called "When Should a Leader Apologize -- and When Not?"
That, she said in a telephone interview from Boston, makes this difficult act the ultimate high-stakes move "for themselves, for their followers, and for the organizations they represent."
The latest political apologies are just the most recent in a line that runs back decades and includes, among its most famous, President Bill Clinton's 1998 mea culpa in the Monica Lewinsky scandal.
Kellerman said there are five simple rules when it comes to the art of a good public apology: acknowledge your mistake, accept responsibility, express regret, say it will never happen again -- and make it fast.
And in that context, Kellerman gave Newsom's performance decidedly...
(Excerpt) Read more at sfgate.com ...
So many of these are of the mind that it's easier to get forgiveness than to get permission.
And some things are never permissible.
Don't forget the "enter rehab" phase. You haven't really apologized until you've checked into a clinic to fix whatever caused you to louse up in the first place.
Honesty and personal integrity ought to remove the need for things like "mastering the art of an apology." I always think that honesty and integrity are more common in politicians than one imagines, but looking at the current crop sometimes makes me wonder where I get that idea.
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