Top Mistakes Most Leaders Make

The way modern organizations are set, the best performing individual gets promoted to lead teams. This new manager now learns the ropes of managing teams through the following 3 methods –

  1. Experience Review. Reviewing the experience they have had as a team member and the experience they have of getting managed by their bosses in the past.
  2. Trial and Error. Trying things and seeing what works or doesn’t work.
  3. Success Review. Reviewing and repeating behaviors that made them successful as an individual contributor and repeating those.

I remember a story that fit’s so well. It goes like this…

In the old days, in ancient India, A great Sage was performing a yagna(a Hindu prayer ritual) with all his disciples observing him and learning from the great master. A dog was barking nearby and this was disturbing the Sage. The Sage at one point, told one of his senior most disciple to find the dog and feed him the roti(bread) that was leftover from last night. All the disciples who were there noticed this.

In his mind, the Sage was thinking, why waste food and also he was sure that the dog was barking from hunger. Soon the Sage passed away and his disciples were called on to conduct the same yagna for one of the families. Guess what! They asked the family to make extra roti the previous night, so that it can be saved and fed to the dog the next day during the yagna as they had observed their master to have done.

Feeding the leftover roti to the dog had now become a part of the yagna ritual.

As any intelligent person can see that the above methods have their own disadvantages. They leave a lot to chance and before we know the following unproductive behaviors creep in and become a part of their managerial styles. I am listing these unproductive behaviors so you can assess yourself and change these behaviors in more productive habits. After all your leadership is nothing but a set of practices that help your team produce results.

1. No Time For Reflection: Some of the leaders are so busy doing things on a daily basis that they don’t take time to pause and evaluate. They are so busy driving people that they are unaware of the impact they have on people. They are unaware of reactions people have to them and their leadership.

Recommended Action:

  • Take 10 minutes on a daily basis to reflect and rate yourself on your leadership.
  • Ask yourself, “if 1 is my worst and 10 is best leadership expression, how do I rate myself today?”
  • Ask, “What can I do differently to increase my rating”
  • Take the new actions the next day consciously

2. Being Hands Off: Some people think, now that they manage a team, they can be hands off. All that they have to do is give instructions and everyone will just follow. They don’t realize that each team member has different needs and different capabilities. Some team members are more willing to accept responsibility in form of instructions and others need more context. Realizing the needs of each individual and engaging them accordingly is very critical.

Recommended Action:

  • Make a list of your team members and their need for engagement. Do they like a hands off approach or they need a bit more support and supervision.
  • Deal with them accordingly.

3. Doing It Yourself: As a Manager your performance is now measured by your team’s performance. Most manager’s don’t realize that and keep doing everything themselves. They are the best performer at an individual level and they measure other people’s performance against their own as a benchmark. Then instead of coaching team members to lift their performance keep doing things on their own as they think in interest of time and results “they have to do it.” Doing this keeps them burdened and stressed all the time.

Recommended Action:

  • Make a list of tasks that you will trust your team members with.
  • Make a list of team members who you would coach on those tasks
  • Start on easy tasks and easy team members, then graduate to difficult tasks and difficult team members


top mistakes Leadership Series Experience review Success review

About the author

Sanjay Wadhwa

Independently Certified Leadership Trainer


An expert facilitator, trainer, coach and keynote speaker with an experience of over 20 years in enhancing organizational effectiveness by improving people capability.

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