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Real Leaders Don’t Apologize- They Say “I’m Sorry“

I used to work at a hotel. In fact, at the time, it was recognized by Condé Nast as “America’s Best Hotel.” With rooms priced at $600 and up, you can bet we got all kinds of A-list, highbrow clientele…

And boy, did they have needs. I spent an ENTIRE Tuesday afternoon desperately searching every supermarket and gas station in our coastal locale for a 32oz bottle of Orange Crush.

As you might imagine, our humble front desk staff was not always capable of fulfilling every fantastical whim. And when we couldn’t, we never said I’m sorry – we said “I apologize.”

“I apologize” doesn’t carry the same weight as “I’m sorry.” It’s almost more of a robotic description of someone apologizing… rather than actually apologizing. It acquiesces to the fact that I understand you want someone to apologize – so here, someone did. It separates YOU from the actual emotions behind the apology, as if the matter or mistake weren’t really up to you at all.

“Apologies, we can’t seem to find a restaurant that serves blowfish at 8:45 in the morning.”

“Apologies, we are unable to locate a DVD player so you can spend the next 48 hours holed up, working through the giant duffel bag of porn you brought with you.”

Apologies. I’m not really sorry. I’m simply checking off a box on my to-do list.

To say “I’m sorry” is to be vulnerable. To open yourself up to possible disappointment, anger, or rejection. It also opens the door to a more honest exchange. We fear that it will make us look weak or incapable – instead, it shows real
strength + invites closer connection.

And in a world that tends to be so hyper-focused on avoiding taking blame for mistakes at all costs, it models how to be human about it – a heroic + worthy task, now that AI is at the door.

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