CEO lesson: Admit your mistakes, curb your impatience

Ever work for a boss with a temper? It's a struggle for some leaders, which is why the topic came up with Mercy Home Health and Mercy LIFE chief executive Carol Quinn. "I can get appropriately unhappy, but I don’t have a bad temper," she told me during our Leadership Agenda interview published in Monday's Philadelphia Inquirer. "I don't think I have that issue.

"I think I can be impatient and that’s the one thing I always have to kind of work on," she said. Her inclination, Quinn said, runs to "`Let’s get it done. Let’s move on.' I’m also the kind of administrator [who] wants a team that’s smart. I hire the best people. I don’t want a team to be yessing me. A yes person, no. I want you to feel very comfortable. Disagree with me. Tell me where I’m wrong. The folks that I have hired are all like that. They are very comfortable with saying – `I don’t think you are right here.'"

Carol Quinn

That's all well and good, I said, but for that attitude to work, the boss actually has to be wrong once in a while.

"You do," Quinn responded, "and you have to be willing to say, `I was wrong yesterday.'

`You know, you are driving home in the car and you think, `Oh, I could have handled that a little differently.' You have to be vulnerable. You have to be willing to say, `Guys, I owe you an apology. I goofed. You had the right idea and I should have listened to you. I have the right to change my mind too and I’m sorry I didn’t.' ’’

"I think if you can be human, people will feel comfortable . It’s not so rigid. I like the folks I work with and I think we have a friendship. It’s not all – I’m the boss. I’m not into that. I’m not a real formal leader. I want people to be comfortable and be able to say things even if it’s a little outlandish. Some of our best ideas came from outlandish proposals."