9 of the Most Common Leadership Mistakes

An image with how important good impressions are to leadership

Working environments are changing and leaders need to continually understand the best approach towards getting the best out of the people around them. So below are 9 of the most common leadership mistakes and what you can do to avoid them to save yourself some time-consuming and costly firefighting.


  1. Not Providing Feedback

According to 1,400 executives polled by The Ken Blanchard Companies, it is the most common mistake that leaders make. When you don’t give prompt feedback to your people, you’re depriving them of the opportunity to improve their performance.

It is important for leaders to look for random opportunities on an ongoing basis to give feedback using appropriate team moments to send a message about good practice and one-to-one moments for more descriptive, personal and directional feedback.

  1. Lacking Tact

The ability to tell the truth in a way that considers other people’s feelings and reactions to avoid conflict and find common ground. Being tactful will strengthen your reputation, credibility and ability to influence positive outcomes.

To develop the skill, become a more active listener, show empathy, and think more carefully about the right time to talk, as well as your choice of words and your body language. Most importantly, never react emotionally. By being more tactful you will also provide additional balance and strength for the times where you have to get your message across more forcefully and ensure that your rights are respected.

  1. Not Leading by Example

‘A manager is a title given and a leader is a title earned’

It’s a ‘show me’ role where others look to leaders for the values to adopt, the process to trust, and the procedures to follow to deliver results. When you seem disengaged from business activity, show unprofessional behaviors or fail to play by the frameworks and standards that you set others, you undermine your very own leadership.

Be aware that your team is watching and listening to you all the time. If you want to shape their behaviors you have to start with your own. Show them the way and they will follow suit.

  1. Overlooking the Cultural Environment

The way that you do things may get the best response in one scenario but may produce negative outcomes in another. Assess the fit between your leadership style and your working environment to identify where and how adjustments can be made. Understand your people, your end game and adapt your style to the situation and the individual.

  1. Failing to Define Goals

Without a focus on clear goals and objectives your team will lack direction, your expectations and they cannot be productive or prioritize their workloads. Set SMART goals that are aligned with business objectives and embed them with regular two-way communication for clarity, reinforcement and motivation towards a goal focused environment.

  1. Lacking Decisiveness

Procrastination, indecisiveness and moving the goal posts fail to inspire the confidence of your team and can be a fatal to your leadership.  To help make better decisions in a timely manner commit to a process.  Create a constructive environment that investigates situations in detail, generates a well-considered set of options, then selects, actions and leaves the rest to monitoring, review and development.

  1. Overstepping the Friendship Line

It is important to be seen as friendly and approachable. However there is a line to be drawn at ‘results’ and it should be respected at all times. Be wary not to get caught up emotionally as a friend to the point it clouds your judgment when it comes to tough decision-making. Your primary concern is the business goal, so ensure that everyone understands that fun and games is part and parcel of the journey but always comes second to the business needs.

  1. Using Blanket Motivation Methods

Misunderstanding what it takes to motivate your team. Firstly, many leaders fail to think and act beyond money motivation. Secondly many fail to distinguish motivating the team separately from the individual.

The team can be motivated with empowerment and autonomy, collaborative working, recognition, titles, goals and more. But you also have to motivate at the  individual level. That overlaps with the above and extends to more such as work place culture, progression, extra responsibility, purposeful work and greater work life balance.  So find the time to interact and get to know what truly drives your people.

  1. Poor Delegation

Delegating effectively is a leader’s most powerful tool. However many refrain for lack trust in the capabilities of colleagues to do the job properly, or do it how they would do it. As a result leaders can become the bottleneck that holds performance back as well as related problems that cause stress and fatigue.

It takes a lot of effort up-front but embrace your role as a coach. Understand and trust in your colleagues capabilities. Aim to become better at giving excellent instructions and being hands on to boost and follow up on performance were required. Also hone your skills in corrective coaching and allow your team to be more empowered and grow. Good communication is paramount.


Your leadership and management style is exempt from the fail fast and learn philosophy because whilst failure will help you to learn they can have a heavy price to pay. By taking the time to learn how to avoid common mistakes you will shine by standing on the shoulder of giants who already failed so that you can learn how to become a more successful leader.

About the Author: Marvin Miller is a Marketing Management & Campaigns Specialist who works across multi channel marketing strategy, campaigns and marketing implementation. You can follow his daily updates via Twitter and join his professional network via LinkedIn