Berskhire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett is the most admired investor in America. His folksy style and plainspoken candor have been big factors in his success–Buffett not only levels with those he’s talking to, he levels with himself. It’s not soul-searching, but simple fact-checking. On CNBC Thursday Buffett noted that some of the current facts on his balance sheet aren’t as he’d like them to be. “I made a mistake on Tesco,” the Sage of Omaha admitted. “That was a huge mistake by me.”
That’s a master class in owning up and leaving the equivocating to lesser men. There’s no ambiguity. Who was the mistake by? “By me.” Who made a mistake on Tesco? “I made a mistake on Tesco.” PR people tell leaders to do this all the time–but few can stomach it. Another person says let’s wait and see if it’ll turn around, or some such. Not Buffett. He may have lost as much as $700 million on the big British supermarket chain, which allegedly overstated earnings by almost half a billion dollars, but Buffett comes straight out and tells you Tesco shouldn’t have been on his shopping list in the first place. Sometimes even a sage doesn’t see the future. But only a fool ignores the facts on the ground–or at the supermarket.