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You’ve heard about it by now. Melania Trump leaned on Michelle Obama’s 2008 speech a little too much. The ensuing media firestorm of reactions range from conspiracy, to deflection, to outrage, to what’s the big deal? Imagine if Hillary Clinton was caught delivering a plagiarized speech. There would be no mercy. The whole situation got me thinking about how a classy woman should handle mishaps.

As a German immigrant to the USA, I learned a big difference between the two countries very quickly. In Germany we are punished for making a mistake. We are expected to own it and face the penalties. Hence, admitting you did something wrong is not exactly high on the list unless you were caught on camera with your hand in the cookie jar.

When I came to the United States and started my first job here, I inevitably made a mistake. Much to my surprise, my boss told me it’s ok that I messed up because we are all human. I almost fainted.

WHAT? I am allowed to make a mistake without fear of my head being chopped off, and then I am forgiven and we move on? What’s the catch? This is certainly NOT a concept I learned growing up.

Fast forward to Melania Trump and her plagiarism of Michelle Obama’s speech. We can believe the theory that this was a liberal coup organized by Hillary Clinton, or perhaps even a conservative deflection carefully crafted by Trump himself (because he loves nothing more than publicity of any kind). Or, we can be grounded in reality and expect this was nothing more than a mistake. After all, there are only two small passages in question and the speechwriter may have assumed no one would notice.

Speechwriter? You bet. There is no way Melania wrote that speech herself. As someone who does a lot of writing in English, I am telling you it is very hard to write a polished speech in your second language. Many of my creative entrepreneur clients are also from other countries and their English writing has room for improvement. In English, we immigrants struggle with sentence structure and grammar, our vocabularies are limited, and we often mix metaphors or confuse the meanings of words. It’s all quite normal for us, which is why we need writers on our teams. Copyrighter, content writer, direct response writer, etc. In my own business, I draft these posts before my trusted editor, JJ Strang, adds the polish. And my book? It was edited by smarty pants and kick-ass writer/editor, Ruta Fox.

That’s what smart women do. We know our weaknesses and play to our strengths. We do not cover up our mistakes, but rather surround ourselves with other women who have our backs.

And when we get caught like Melania Trump did for having used or abused another woman, we have two choices.

The classy woman admits she made a mistake. She apologizes in a graceful way. She says the words, I am sorry. A classy woman turns to the other woman, reaches out, and says, I take responsibility. When her efforts to stand out as a leader go downhill, she says, I tried hard but failed. Please forgive me.

A classless woman plays the victim. She blames everyone else. She is not a leader but an egoist, so she resorts to hiding in the shadows until it all blows over. Others have to do the work for her and try to set it right on her behalf. The classless woman expects to be protected by her team and that someone else will take the hit. She wants the job without earning it. My people let me down. They need to be reprimanded.

In a time when women are crying out to be taken seriously as leaders, each of us must step up. Mistakes happen. We will fail sometimes. Being a leader means we have the integrity to own our mistakes, get back up, and take the lead again.


At her lowest point, Beate Chelette was $135,000 in debt, a single mother, and forced to leave her home. Only 18 months later, she sold her image licensing business to Bill Gates in a multimillion dollar deal. Chelette is a nationally known ‘gender decoder’ who has appeared in over 60 radio shows, respected speaker, career coach, consummate creative entrepreneur, and author of Happy Woman Happy World. Beate is also the founder of The Women’s Code, a unique guide to women leadership and personal and career success that offers a new code of conduct for today’s business, private, and digital worlds. Determined to build a community of women supporting each other, she took her life-changing formula documented it all in a book Brian Tracy calls “an amazing handbook for every woman who wants health, happiness, love and success!”

Through her corporate initiative “Why Acting Like a Girl Is Good For Business” she helps companies with gender diversification training, and to develop and retain women.

If you’d like to book Beate as a speaker on New Leadership Balance or Creative Entrepreneurship for your next event please connect with me.

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