Can You Lead With Regret?

January 29, 2011 by  Filed under: Management 


Leaders are known by their leadership behavior. Since communication is behavior, it is safe to say that language choices either promote or negate personal leadership. Language choices also create or negate relationships. A leader is worthy of being followed – due in part to the business knowledge and acumen and due in greater part to his or her ability to establish and sustain strong relationships. How often do we make choices that limit us and box us into a victim place rather than a leadership place?

The Language of Limits: Regret

“If only I had…”

“I always…”

“I shoulda…”

“I coulda…”

“I woulda…”

Many of us use these language choices on a daily basis. Can you hear how limiting they are? This is how we speak and yet we expect people to follow.

“If only, I could have, and I would have” puts us in a victim box, creating the perception that we are powerless and at the mercy of others or our circumstances. If we are always second-guessing ourselves we lack forward vision or the leadership belief that we are on course.

Regret is also often used to spin fantasy of how it might have been. It is great to dream. Fantasy is good. When regret spins the fantasy, the dreaming becomes “past perfect”. Remember Brando’s immortal movie line, “I coulda’ been a contender?” How many things could you have been? Are you stuck there? When we use regret to dream, we stay in our past and are victimized by our choices. This clearly takes us out of our leadership.

Reverse The Guilt of Regret and Move Into Your Unique Leadership:

1. A New Mantra: When working with clients who are stuck in regret, I ask them to adopt a new mantra and say it daily: “I did the best I could with what I knew. As I learn more, I will do better.” This mantra opens a doorway from regret to what is possible. Dream in future-perfect, rather than past regret.

2. See The Hooks: Emotional hooks (limiting thoughts, feelings or beliefs) need to be unhooked so that you can step into leadership. Give yourself new words and affirmations to counteract:

· You should have

· You always

· If only I had.

3. Practice some new language

· Use I statements frequently.

· Eliminate “should” from your vocabulary.

4. Become conscious of your unconscious when you speak. See where you step into leadership or step out into victim. Choose the higher path.

5. Set goals for future dreams that are not tethered to regret in the past.

Leadership unencumbered by regret, is the high road of leadership. If you really could, would you go back and change anything? When you are in true leadership, you understand that everything in your history unfolded perfectly to forge you as the leader you are today.

Mary Pat Knight is a strategy and leadership expert, working with small businesses and entrepreneurs to create dynamic businesses and fulfilling personal lives. A parallel career as a corporate executive and entrepreneur coupled with single parenting three teens makes MP ideally suited to support life and work balance for the busy entrepreneur. For your free access to 30 Days and 30 Ways to A Heart Centered Strategy, visit

Article Source:

Mary Pat Knight - EzineArticles Expert Author

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