Got Guilt?

Raise your hand if you think you have mastered the art of feeling guilty. I know I have, at both home and work. I feel guilty if I serve sandwiches for dinner, if I wasn’t able to give someone a bonus I thought they deserved, if I don’t go to the farmers’ market to buy organic produce, if I forgot to give someone credit for contributions they made to a project…you get the picture. I bet many of you feel the same way.

But, there is good news. According to a study published by the Stanford Graduate School of Business earlier this year, guilt could be a building block for leadership. In  Why Feelings of Guilt May Signal Leadership Potential, the authors reported:

  • Driven, hard-working people often mentioned guilt as a motivator.
  • Guilt can cause individuals to work harder to resolve problems.
  • Guilt-prone people tend to have a strong sense of responsibility to others, and that responsibility helps others to see them as leaders.

My favorite quote is, “There are many ways of responding to mistakes or other problems, including blaming others and blaming yourself. But the most constructive response, and the one people seem to recognize as a sign of leadership, is to feel guilty enough to want to fix the problem.”

I used to wish I wasn’t so prone to feeling guilt. However, after reading about the Stanford study, I’m starting to feel good about it and the effect it must have on my leadership style.

How about you? What role do you think guilt has had on your leadership style? Can you think of problems you decided to fix because you felt guilty about them? I’d like to hear from you!


© 2012 by Karen Catlin. All rights reserved.

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