Leadership Matters: An Actionable Solution to the Mistakes Leaders Make

striped cat who made a mistake covering its face in shame
Dan Rockwell Photo
Leadership Expert
Leadership Freak blog

2 minutes

Breaking down the reasons behind doing the wrong thing and seven reflection questions to help avoid repeating those mistakes

This article was originally posted on the Leadership Freak blog and is reprinted with permission. Read the original post here.

There are many paths to success, but the options for screwing up are limitless. You can screw up by leaving things undone, or you may do the right thing in the wrong way. It’s usually easier to spot mistakes of action than mistakes of neglect.

The mistakes leaders make are deadly because they harm others. If you’re a leader, you’ve probably made all the mistakes listed below.

Reasons for the Mistakes Leaders Make

People do the wrong thing for two reasons: ease or ignorance. Sometimes the wrong thing is easier than the right thing. Other times you’re just ignorant.

Mistakes of ease are caused by lack of courage or short-term wins.

Sincere ignorance doesn’t do the right thing because it’s busy doing other things.

7 Mistakes of Ease

  1. Not giving feedback
  2. Not seeking feedback
  3. Postponing tough conversations
  4. Ignoring problems
  5. Allowing fuzzy accountability
  6. Not defining the win
  7. Not setting priorities

Mistakes of ease sacrifice the future on the altar of the immediate.

7 Mistakes of Ignorance

  1. Confusing busy with getting things done
  2. Working hard on the wrong things: doing someone’s work for them, for example
  3. Hanging on too long: Mistakes of endurance wear you down.
  4. Trying harder: Pedaling faster when you’re going the wrong way doesn’t help.
  5. Going it alone: Isolation intensifies ignorance.
  6. Waiting for the perfect decision instead of moving the ball forward
  7. Allowing double standard: You notice the mistakes of others and make exemptions for your own.

The worst mistakes leaders make are a combination of ease and ignorance.

Solving the Mistakes Leaders Make

Lack of self-reflection prolongs mistake-making.

Self-reflection protects you from repeating the same mistakes. Invest 15 minutes a day asking yourself these questions:

  1. What’s working? 
  2. What’s not working?
  3. What are my frustrations?
  4. What am I learning?
  5. What could I try that I haven’t tried yet?
  6. What’s giving me energy?
  7. What’s draining my energy?

What are some mistakes in leadership/management you have made?

Based in central Pennsylvania, Dan Rockwell is freakishly interested in leadership. According to the Center for Management & Organization Effectiveness, the Leadership Freak blog is often the most socially shared leadership blog on the internet. An Inc. magazine Top 50 Leadership and Management Expert and Top 100 Great Leadership Speaker and an American Management Association Top 30 Leader in Business of 2014, Rockwell had his first leadership position in the non-profit world at age 19.

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