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By now, I’m sure you have heard about Netflix splitting into two different brands, one for online streaming, and the other for DVDs.

Whether you are outraged or indifferent to this announcement, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings gave us plenty to talk about.

Fully aware of the negative reactions to his company’s changes, Reed wrote a letter where he took full responsibility for the disengagement of its customers.
“I messed up. I owe everyone an explanation,” he wrote.

He went on to give his reasoning behind the changes, and he blamed the company’s mistakes on his own arrogance. He also stated he understood that the public feels Netflix, as a whole, disrespected its loyal
customer base.

While it’s a surprising and gutsy move when a leader acknowledges mistakes and offers a public apology, some have dismissed Reed’s apology as too little, too late.

Regardless of your opinion on Netflix and Reed, this situation does show a lesson in humility.

While humility is not always considered a vital leadership trait, it should be.

As we have covered before, some leaders suffer from an overabundance of ego, pride, and arrogance. However, it’s not a secret that followers are more receptive to a leader who is dependable and full of integrity. Among their many characteristics, humble leaders treat everyone with respect, regardless of position, and are transparent with what’s going on in the company, good or bad.

As Reed has learned, small deviations from complete honesty and integrity are often magnified and remembered for a long time. While his letter is a step in the right direction, he will have to make sure he holds true to his words.

Hopefully, you won’t find yourself in a public relations nightmare like Netflix, but you are bound to make mistake sometime in your leadership career. Here are some development tips to keep in mind:


  • Do not promise or commit (including to deadlines) unless you will honor the commitment. Consistently follow through on commitments.




  • Make sure your message is consistent. Avoid saying different things to different audiences.
  • Don’t promise confidentiality if you aren’t certain you can or should keep the information private.
  • Involve your team members in the goal-setting process. Discussion and information exchange encourage understanding and commitment.
  • If you have lost trust and do not know what you did, ask. Listen carefully to what is said, without arguing or trying to defend yourself. After you fully understand what you did that came across in a way you did not intend, you can begin to develop a strategy to make it right.
  • Reflect on your successes and failures, and think about how you would manage your failures if they happened today.


Going forward, Reed should keep the adage, “Actions speak louder than words” in mind. Actions should always be consistent with what you say you believe.

What do you think about Reed and his letter of apology?