As a leader in an organization, one has to set an example by being disciplined. But sometimes even leaders can commit a blunder, be it a consequence of workload or anything else.

My friend (we are based in India) is mentoring a group of teachers who are not motivated at all. Now this leader missed a deadline. How should they react now? Should they give an explanation for the missed deadline or just keep quiet and try to build a better reputation next time by being in-time?

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    @Benjamin Gruenbaum, Thanks for editing my questions. It makes sense.
    – user5377
    Commented Nov 4, 2019 at 0:44
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    What does usually happen, when a deadline is missed? In my company deadlines are missed all the time.
    – Helena
    Commented Nov 4, 2019 at 7:49
  • “one has to set an example by being disciplined” — unless that organisation isn't really shooting for discipline. Not every organisation is the army! Commented Nov 4, 2019 at 11:38
  • Do you work for the UK government?
    – walrus
    Commented Nov 4, 2019 at 11:49
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    The original penalty for crossing a deadline was death - hence the name. If the leader does not die, then they were not really deadlines in the first place. Most "deadlines" are arbitrary dates that merit no special concern.
    – emory
    Commented Nov 4, 2019 at 15:15

6 Answers 6

  • Admit your mistakes quickly
  • Explain what you did wrong
  • Explain what you will do to fix them
  • Explain how you will make sure this will not happen again
  • Don't make the same mistake again.
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    Good luck with step 5 :)
    – Barmar
    Commented Nov 4, 2019 at 6:58
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    @Barmar I never said it was easy. But we do need to learn from our mistakes. When I was young, I accidentally wiped my own hard drive. Never did that a second time. Commented Nov 4, 2019 at 13:22
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    @Barmar It follows from 4. If 5 doesn't work out, is it because the old 4 wasn't enough, or because 4 wasn't followed? Lather, rinse, repeat. We're just trying to get better with every iteration :)
    – Luaan
    Commented Nov 4, 2019 at 14:00
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    A more accurate step 5 might be "Try not to make the same mistake again." That's the best that can be expected. You can't guarantee success.
    – Barmar
    Commented Nov 4, 2019 at 16:29
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    @Barmar I'll "try" to edit that into the answer. Commented Nov 4, 2019 at 16:31

How should a leader behave when he misses deadlines himself?

Leaders need to be held accountable just like anyone else. If they missed a deadline they should:

  • Admit to missing the deadline
  • Apologize for missing the deadline
  • Explain the reason(s) for missing the deadline
  • Explain the steps that they will take to prevent this from happening in the future.

They need to set the example of how things should be done by actions. Under no circumstances should they keep quiet.

  • Apologize to who? Their boss? Their subordinates?
    – nick012000
    Commented Nov 2, 2019 at 1:36
  • @nick012000 The boss at least, since he'll be expecting a product that isn't there yet.
    – Mast
    Commented Nov 2, 2019 at 13:08
  • Certainly their own boss, who needs to know to fix schedules and adjust expectations, but also those of their team possibly inconvenienced, and who also might have to adjust their plans. As a bonus, they can at least use the situation to demonstrate how to properly deal with it. Commented Nov 2, 2019 at 14:34
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    apologize first to everyone / anyone. Worry about who the right people are later (that's your ego fighting to defend itself). If the apology isn't actually needed or doesn't apply don't worry that you made it. You will be viewed more positively in the long term. Make sure the aplogy says 'i offended people and I am sorry' not 'if I offended anyone I am sorry'. The later is lame Commented Nov 3, 2019 at 14:22

All the other answers are great, but nobody gave what is in my opinion the most obvious answer:

How do you expect your subordinates to react if they miss a deadline?

Whatever your answer is, do that.

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    This is the perfect answer. You should model the behaviour you expect from others. Commented Nov 4, 2019 at 10:27

Admit your mistake

Admit your mistake. That's the most important part.

Do not excuse it

Do not explain it. Do not justify it. Do not give out reasons.

There are exceptions to this rule. But for now, I won't go into them. 99% of the time, it's just better to not give out any.

Do not promise that you won't do it again

If you want people to trust you, do it with your actions, not your words.

A promise made (under the stress of having broken an earlier one) is not built on a good foundation. It can be seen as a very empty gesture.

If you find yourself in front of a police officer, or a judge, or facing a very serious situation, yes, by all means, promise all you want, but in most other cases, it's just better that you continue feeling bad about you did, or didn't do.

Feeling bad will motivate you to figure out ways to mitigate such problems in the future.


How should he react now?

Since you said your friend a leader, the leader does not react...

Shall he give an explanation for the missing deadline?

Or just keep quiet and try to build a better reputation next time by being in-time?

An apology & an explanation is appreciated and will be seen as your courage for acceptance of failure. An explanation will help followers with clarity of the situation and avoid a fuss. Keeping quiet will harm his reputation.

Leaders take failure as opportunity/learning and do like the following:

  1. Analyze the cause of failure and come out with better strategy to avoid such failures in future
  2. Allow others to take chance next time if they have better plans
  3. If a group of teachers are not motivated, find other ways/technique to make them motivated
  4. Plan with reasonable more time in a deadline for such tasks in future (since now you know that previously planned duration is not enough)
  5. Shall not express disappointment and try inspiring/motivating followers for better luck next time on success

A very big answer can be written for "what next..." but above shall be helpful.

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    +1 for "the leader does not react" (I assume you mean: "a leader acts, rather than reacts") Commented Nov 1, 2019 at 18:56
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    @CaptainEmacs Yes. I believe expressing reaction instantly creates different chain-reaction in the audience (followers in this case). Sometimes even a calm reaction triggers demotivation to the audience.
    – JPI
    Commented Nov 2, 2019 at 7:50
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    employee quits. "Damn it's too bad I'm not allowed to react, I guess we'll just keep paying them and leave that position unfilled indefinitely..."
    – jesse_b
    Commented Nov 2, 2019 at 19:37
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    @CaptainEmacs: by that description the word you are looking for is "overreact." Your phrase should be: "A leader reacts, rather than overreacts"
    – jesse_b
    Commented Nov 3, 2019 at 13:15
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    @Jesse_b No, that's not what I am trying to say. What I am trying to say that the leader should be proactive rather than reactive. Which is true even if what he does is originally triggered by the event. But "proact" is not a word in English. It means that the leader does not just act just about to make the symptoms disappear, but also goes for the causes. Let's put it this way: it's more a rhetorical statement. "Reaction" to me implies that the leader is driven by the event(s) (independently of intensity of action, as in "overreacting") rather than deciding how things should go in future. Commented Nov 3, 2019 at 14:57

How should he react now?

He should apologize and make sure it doesn't happen again.

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