Great Canadian Leaders are Less Canadian


In an episode of Top Gear, Jeremy Clarkson introduced Ryan Reyolds as the guest and promptly plied him about classic Canadian stereotypes (seriously, who pronounces ‘about’ as ‘a boot’??). Ryan handled them with class, and then drove the crap out of their car. Nice.

One of the most often quoted Canadian stereotypes is our propensity to apologize for everything. People bump into us and we say sorry. We apologize for being inside others’ personal space. We apologize for making eye contact!

Obviously, there are times when saying I’m sorry is the right thing to do. Accountability is critical in leadership. But how many of these have you apologized for?

  • You enter a meeting room you booked and find the sales group still meeting in there. Everyone turns to look at you.
  • You ask Dan’s assistant to print copies of a report you will be discuss with him
  • Susan asks you to do something that is clearly her own work to do and you decline
  • Garret tells you he spent days preparing a report that does not meet the requirement you set. It needs to be redone.

I’m not saying we should be nasty or cold in these situations. We can frame our requests and no’s in a respectful way. To get results, we have to direct others and guard our time and energy. That does not require an apology.

For clients looking to shift their culture, I coach them to observe the words they are using and reflect on the implied meaning. Overapologizing sends the wrong message – it grants others power they don’t deserve and gives permission for them to continue acting inappropriately. You steal their accountability.

Don’t apologize for being a leader.

Thoughtfully Yours,


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Jeff Skipper
Jeff Skipper is an expert in accelerating change. Clients such as Shell, Goldman Sachs and The Salvation Army have engaged him to achieve dramatic results during strategic transformation by wrapping complex change in motivating mission. He has been quoted in Fast Company, Forbes and HP’s enterprise.nxt. Jeff holds a Master’s degree in Organizational Psychology and is a Certified Change Management Professional.

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