I screw up all the time. I make mistakes big and small and when that happens I apologize. To properly do so, I follow the advice from Art Collins, former CEO of Medtronic:
Be personal. Assume personal responsibility.
Be focused. Address specific acts or mistakes so it’s clear that you understand the ramifications.
Be genuine. Convey in both words and tone honest remorse and atonement for mistakes made and any resulting damage caused.
Make no excuses. Avoid shifting blame, minimizing harm, or whitewashing a bad situation.
Act swiftly. The sooner an apology is given, the better the chance the apology will be accepted by those who count.
Be comprehensive. Get all the facts out and admit all known shortcomings.
Prevent recurrences. Articulate an action plan to correct what went wrong.
Apologizing is an important part of leadership. Admitting mistakes is humbling and leaders devoid of vulnerability are in denial. Vulnerability is leadership. Without it, you have dictatorship.