Leaders are frequently called to apologize on behalf of their organizations, in some cases skillfully resolving episodes of failure while meeting the unique, competing needs of diverse stakeholders. However, too often leaders handle apology poorly, exacerbating tense situations and alienating key constituents. This study is an examination of the practice of apology as a leadership behavior in an organizational context. To answer the question, How might the existing literatures on apology be examined, integrated and refocused to apply specifically to leaders operating within an organizational context? the study provides a meta-analysis of the diverse literatures that address the practice of apology. Examining literature from theology and philosophy, the social sciences, law, public relations and organizational management, the study builds a framework to understand and evaluate apology and its appropriate application to episodes of organizational failure. The literature integration and analysis demonstrates a diversity of perspectives on the definition of apology, its purpose and goals, the modes through which apology is delivered, the process or steps involved in apology, and the alternatives to apology. Using the adaptive leadership framework and a stakeholder management perspective on organization, the research is organized around the unique and distinct needs of organizational leaders. The Organizational Apology Model, offered in Chapter 5, provides a robust set of tools and examples designed to support organizational leaders considering the practice of apology.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Dissertations (EdD) -- Organizational change; Apologizing; Business communication; Corporations -- Public relations

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Nero, Susan;