7 Mistakes Leaders Should Avoid Making

Bad leaders are rarely born. Rather they slowly edge their way towards the edge. Before you know it, you’re there.

Image by Ed Yourdon

Image by Ed Yourdon

No leader wants to venture into the badlands. Great leaders want to build great teams, complete their visions, and more. But they can’t do that if they’ve been pulled into bad leadership traits.

So that’s what we’re going to talk about. Mistakes leaders make and what they can do to avoid it.

1. Gossiping: Gossip is a weed that spreads like wildfire through an organization. Left untamed it will leave your company in ruins. Don’t buy into the gossip. Stop spreading it and stop those who are.

When you hear gossip, nip it in the bud. Confront the one who’s sharing the “juicy” tidbit. If necessary, let the team member go. Gossip is toxic!

2. Putting others down: Your goal as a leader isn’t to put others down. It’s to lift them up. Your job is to make the best of your team. So do it!

If you feel the temptation to put another team member down, stop in your tracks. Examine why you want to put him down. Then begin thinking of all the good this person has done. Let that become your focus.

3. Using others as stepping stones: There are leaders who get their roles mixed up. They think the team is there to serve them. To be stepping stones to their next position. In reality, your role as a leader is to serve others and to help them rise to the next level.

Begin to view your team members as valuable assets. They’re your responsibility to cultivate and nurture as they grow into positions of leadership. Don’t get the wrong idea and think they’re there to advance you!

4. Putting their family second: A huge mistake leaders make is putting their job or career in front of their family. You made a commitment to your family. To be there, to provide (not just a paycheck but emotional and relational support), to love them.

Watch out to make sure you’re putting the right things first in your life. Notice the tiny shifts you’re making and when you need to course correct. Avoid it long enough and you may not have a family to go home to.

5. Failing to rest: The demands of leadership are many. Our time is one of those demands. But don’t let it consume you. Realize there will be times when you’ll need to rest.

Decide to schedule periods of rest into your day, week, or month. Whatever works best for you. To do this, actually write it down on your calendar and don’t let anything come between it. Let it be your recharge time.

6. Fearing failure: Failure’s become a dirty word in our society. We’ve been told failure is to be avoided at all costs. Nothing good comes from it.

Those are lies, I tell you! Failure can be your best friend. Embrace failure when you encounter it. Ask failure what you can learn from the experience. Grasp that knowledge and move forward knowing you’ve gained wisdom from failure.

7. Not enjoying the leadership journey: Sure, leadership has stress. You’re showing people the way to a better life. And you feel responsible for getting them to the top.  Sometimes leadership is rough.

And yet leadership should be enjoyable. You’re able to help people achieve more than they ever thought. Enjoy leading your team to success. There’s nothing else like it.

Question: What else should leaders avoid doing? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Jeff Nestell

    If a leader is trying to make everyone happy 100% of the time then they are NOT leaders. In order to be a good leader you are going to have members of your team unhappy with you at some point, and that’s ok.

    • Jeff, that’s an excellent addition to the fatal leadership mistakes people will make. It’s a realization people have to face at some point or another.

  • Make a decision, then make that decision the RIGHT decision. Stop second-guessing and causing doubt.

    • I like how you phrased this one Charles. Our second guessing only causes issues within the organization. How do you do this as a leader?

      • Self confidence is contagious to a team. Leaders must have confidence in their ability to lead (make decisions, delegate, correct, advise, teach, mentor, train, motivate, etc). Amazing things happen because of confidence. And, it’s easy to prove. Walk into a room full of people with your head up and your shoulders back. Walk in as if you are in charge and watch people sit up. It’s almost funny.

  • Good thoughts, my friend. Like #7 – see my post today. http://www.michaelnichols.org/enjoy-the-journey-with-your-team/

  • #6 is really good.

    I’ve been thinking about Failure lately. And it taught me 4 things. Either:

    1. I am for the job.

    2. I am not for the job.

    3. It’s not the right time for the job.

    4. I am not ready for the job.

    As a leader and creative, it’s important to identify which one applies. Because the obscurity of it causes fear, therefore hindering my leadership and creativity.

    • You’ve done a great job of finding ways to break down the failure. Where do you find yourself falling most of the time?

      • All of them! lol. The beauty of failure is that it’s a reminder that you are human. A human with a mission. That’s the question at the end of the day. Is my attempt connected to my mission, vision, strengths, passion, and purpose? Questions like: Am I being selfish? ignorant? self-dependent? or rebellious? This answers those 4 questions.

        How about you?

        • For me, it comes down to either not being ready for the job or it’s not the right time for the job.

          I tend to be someone who jumps into situations because I feel like we have to take opportunities as they come at us. They don’t always work but, then again, it’s not always a bad thing.

          • Right. It’s better to say you tried than rather just think of starting one day. I’m a bit impulsive sometimes. So I can relate. For sure, it’s a double edged sword.

  • DS

    Great job here Joe! These are definitely ways to alienate and rid yourself of loyal followers who will run through walls for you.

    • Thanks David. Anything you would add to the list?

  • Joe, I liked the steps. A leader should express a clear and compelling vision that gets people on board and inspired.

    • Bernard, thanks for commenting. How do you go about expressing a clear and compelling vision?

  • Great points,
    I’d add fearing success. Often we work so hard for it, but when it comes into view we sabotage it (maybe we don’t even realize we do this) or quit.

    • TC, I feel you on this one. It’s easy to see the success coming and unconsciously sabotage the great work. Any tips on avoiding this?

      • Pray!

      • Not really…I think just being aware that one has this tendency could help someone recognize this in a situation and be able to take it to God and have His grace help them through it. We must put on the Armor of God and renew our minds in the Truth found in God’s Word. No other way I know of to help me change bad habits in my life. But it’s a long process…no quick fix.

  • I LOVE # 1! That one alone can destroy leadership integrity and credibility. There’s this principle: the law of 99 and 1. How you treat the one is how the 99 will feel. A leaders that gossips about anyone breeds distrust in everyone else. The 99 are always going to be saying: “if he treats HIM like that, what about me?”

    Great post Joe!!

    • Thanks Mike! Gossip sure is a killer in organizations.

  • There is nothing that makes you lose credibility quite as fast as trying to climb the ladder and push past everyone else. Even if that is your intent, you have to do it in a way that doesn’t alienate everyone on the way.

    • Great addition Tom. Stepping over everybody and everything is horrible for your credibility.

  • I am guilty Joe.. #5 I don’t get much rest at all. I am always trying to squeeze more out of the day than I should. I am working on changing this because it will eventually kill me. Thank you for sharing this great reminder.

    • Good for you recognizing this Lincoln. Keep working on it and you’ll break free.

  • I totally agree with your points adding that if a leader is not creative and hard working then it will definitely affect the growth of the organization.

  • Leaders should also refrain from taking others for granted. We do this more than we realize, as humans, whether we are leaders or not! Also, never assume. (You know what they say about people who ass-u-me!)

    • Thanks for the laugh with the breakdown of assume.

      • They say that when we assume, we make an @$$ out of u an me… but I guess you figured that out from ass-u-me…

  • amyyoungmiller

    Yikes–if I observed any of these habits in a leader (say, a boss) I’d certainly lose respect, and a leader certainly isn’t as effective without respect from his followers.

    • Amy, you’re spot on with respect being key to a leader. We’ve got to be careful to keep the respect of our teams.

  • Those are certainly some bad qualities. I would add “Complaining”. I’ve seen this happen to way too many ministers and pastors. It seems to me that once a leader steps over the line and becomes a complainer it’s very difficult to get him back.

    • Caleb, yes! That’s a great one. Complaining destroys morale and keeps us performing sub-par work. It’s also very infectious.

  • I have to agree – especially with family I don’t think there is ever a time when you should forget those who love you the most.

    • Sarah, this is so true! Our family is the one thing that will be with us while our careers and positions may come and go.

  • Ambitious Curls

    Using your team as stepping stones is an easy trap to fall into. So many leaders lose respect when they do this

    • That’s something that is seen much too often as well. How would you avoid doing this?

  • I would add not being honest and this is a very true list!

    • Heck yeah Kimanzi. Being dishonest is a huge killer in leadership. If you can’t be trusted, why would anyone follow you?

    • If you always tell the truth, you never have to remember anything. 🙂

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  • Number 4 is key. I just read When Family and Work Collide by Andy Stanley. It provides great insight for keeping family a priority.

  • I would add – failing to set an example. Leaders have to lead by example. They must model desired behavior and demonstrate or practice what they preach. Otherwise, they come across as dictators or hypocrites.

    • Jon, that’s so true. We need to be modeling the work we want done. If we can’t do that, how can we expect others to do it?