Never Do This. (lessons from leadership mistakes)

Hi everyone!

We all know that no one is perfect, and everyone – even the most respected of leaders – makes mistakes. You can choose to ignore the mistakes you make along the way, or you can face them head on, address them, and, most importantly, learn from them. One sign of a great leader is someone who isn’t afraid to say, “I don’t know” on occasion. It actually conveys strength and confidence, rather than weakness.

Here are a few common mistakes leaders make that you can learn from and watch our for in your own behavior:

Negative Reinforcement: Putting people down or criticism their performance in a non-constructive way won’t help them and it definitely won’t help your business. Be careful not to use scare tactics or threats to try and get the most out of people, since it always has the opposite effect. Instead of dumping on someone when you’re unhappy with their performance, talk to them about why they are valuable to the organization and what they need to do to course correct. Appreciate what they do right. Remember the wise positive psychologist Barbara Frederickson who coined the term “broaden and build”. What do you want to broaden and build? Focus on that – because what we focus on grows!

Not Listening: Really listen to those around you rather than brushing them off or convincing yourself that you have the answers. Listen to everyone, and then decide what works and what doesn’t.

Acting Solely on Emotion: Sure the pressures of work and life can creep into your performance at times, but be mindful to remain calm and focused and take deep breaths in tricky, tense situations rather than acting on a possibly misguided impulse. Take a moment or a day, clear your mind, then act accordingly. Your emotions are useful information, but self-management is an art form!

Not Admitting Mistakes: Again, remember to say “I don’t know” when necessary. If you do make a mistake don’t pretend it never happened. Show everyone around you that you respect them by fessing up – it’ll be better for everyone and for the organization in the end.

Not Delegate: This is a hard one for some folks, but if you’re feeling overwhelmed or stressed remember that it is OK and even advisable to delegate responsibilities. If you feel yourself needing to control everything, try and put trust and faith in others by letting go a little bit. It’ll foster a more positive environment!


About karlinsloan

Karlin Sloan has committed herself to finding out what makes great leaders tick, and to supporting leaders to be the change they wish to see in the world. As a corporate citizen she is an advocate for triple-bottom-line reporting, for creating sustainable ways of working and living, and for creating positive organizational communities that work together for the greater good. She is the author of the acclaimed business book Smarter, Faster, Better; Strategies for Effective, Enduring, and Fulfilled Leadership which has been translated into Thai and Russian, UNFEAR: Facing Change in an Era of Uncertainty, and co-author of the 2012 book Lemonade: The Leaders Guide to Resilience at Work. For more information see or
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