Humility is a rare trait among leaders.

“It is a good habit to trumpet your failures and be quiet about your successes.” — Charlie Munger

Humility is a rare trait among leaders. Those who have it exude it in their statements. They will say things like “We missed it” or “We blew it” or “We were wrong.” You heard those statements lately among your leaders? People do not like to admit when they’re wrong, especially those in power. It takes a special breed, a special build. Strangely, it isn’t hard to do. It just takes some honesty and humility and ownership.

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The Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting is like a rock concert for investors.

A shining beacon of humility and ownership in leadership is Warren Buffett, a National Treasure. If you read Warren’s letters to shareholders, you will discover that he finds it necessary to own up to his investing mistakes, whether by omission (we did nothing) or commission (we did something). Warren will write things like, “We invested in Chevon. We thought it was a good price. It’s since gone down. We blew it.” He owns it. He isn’t too proud to admit it or to own up to it.

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How would you like to be on stage in front of hundreds of thousands, admitting your mistakes?

While Warren’s always been an admirer of Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, he was rather skeptical of the company, stating:

“I was too dumb to realize what was going to happen,” he said at the Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting.

“I’ve admired Jeff, and I’ve admired him for a long, long time. But I did not think he was going to succeed on the scale that he has. We missed it entirely.”

We missed it entirely. And by “we,” he means he and Charlie. They couldn’t see it.

And they both owned up to it in front of hundreds of thousands of people while on stage at the annual meeting.

That’s the thing with Warren’s letters — they’re read by millions worldwide. He has a captive audience that awaits his letters dropping typically at the end of each February. How would you like your past year’s mistakes to be read by an audience of millions each year? Do you think that exercise would build humility and character?

Stage Door — Warren and Charlie only.

By writing down and publicizing his past year’s mistakes, Warren teaches us honesty in leadership while succeeding wildly. Sure, he blew it on a few investment picks. But he also killed it here, here, and here. Not that you’ll get him to tell you. You’ll have to read about that yourself in the annual performance letter.

“It is a good habit to trumpet your failures and be quiet about your successes.” — Charlie Munger

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