Admitting Wrong to be Right

January 17, 2015

Admitting Wrong to be Right

Just read a fascinating article in The Economist as to why former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has lost so much credibility in the UK. The article is titled The Loneliness of Tony Blair and explains why he is disliked in his own country although admired elsewhere. A poll in 2013 found that somewhat less than one-half of British people consider Blair a war criminal. There are many other stats in the article that make the point that he is not revered in his home country.

Since he left office, his do-going has not salvaged his reputation and in fact, seems to have cemented it because of the large fees he gets for speaking engagements. His reputation is worse than it was when in office. The article lists many reasons (at least 15) for his fallen reputation which I have to say is more than most people get thrown at them. It is almost like a laundry list of sins. However, the main reason why Britons disfavor Blair, according to the article, is his inability to admit that he may have made a mistake invading Iraq. “Because it is so important to Mr Blair to be right, he cannot admit to failings over the war in Iraq. Yet until he does so, people will continue to mistrust him… Yet the main asset that any former politician has is moral sway, and because Mr Blair has forfeited so much trust, he has far less credibility than he should have. Some contrition or regret among those ironclad certainties would serve him and his cause better.” Clearly, people like to see their leaders have a spot of humility these days. When that is missing, leaders and CEOs are considered distrustful and incredulous. We like our leaders to admit to wrong-doing, especially when their most critical stakeholders (the public or employees) call them on it.

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Leslie Gaines-Ross
Leslie Gaines-Ross
lesliegainesross@gmail.com

As Weber Shandwick’s Chief Reputation Strategist, I focus on the ever changing world of reputation. For the past 25 years, I have relentlessly observed, researched and commented on the rise and fall of reputations.

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