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9 Critical Mistakes Leaders Make

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Harvard Business Review interviews 9 experts on leadership to discover what they think are the most critical mistakes leaders make.

1. Irresponsibility

Good leadership comes from being responsible – for your company, employees and customers. Poor leadership results when you put your self-interest before the interest of the institution that you run.

2. Betraying Trust

Trust is the most valuable currency not only for doing deals, forging business partnerships and keeping customers, it is critical for building a high performing team. Just as a lack of trust between parties in a negotiation can slow down the process or even stop a deal completely, decisions and work progress far more slowly when people don’t trust the leader to be there when and how they need him or her.

3. Being Certain

Success can cause leaders to become overconfident in their decisions and their ability to predict the future. It is important to remember that everything is uncertain and unpredictable. Embrace the uncertainty and use it as a strength by modelling for your team how to always look for multiple right answers to any challenge.

4. Falsely Claimed Values

Most large organizations have clearly stated values, yet it is a commonly heard complaint in all but the best organizations that many leaders do not live these values. Don’t just talk the talk – make sure you are walking the walk.

5.  Swept Away by Their vision

Some leaders become so enamoured with their vision that it borders on an obsession. While this type of focus and passion can rally the troops and create an almost evangelical fervor of commitment to achieving the companies goals, it can lead to vulnerability for the leader and the team. Becoming so completely swept away by the vision can result in the leader losing their ability to look at the consequences of the vision, or to lose perspective on their standards around the tactics allowed for achieving it.

6. Arrogance

The bigger the organization, the easier it becomes for a leader to fall prey to inflating his or her ego to match the size of the company. Huge egos create distance between leaders and their employees and customers. In today’s market, with authenticity and accessibility being hugely valued commodities, even the perception of arrogance can create negative repercussions for sales and retention.

7. Acting Too Fast

Despite the huge pressure on leaders to act immediately to deal with the massive amounts of data coming at them, it pays to take a second to stop and think. While it might feel good to make fast decisions to get things off your plate in the short term, research shows that both short and long term outcomes are better when leaders take the time to consult others, do proper research, and fully consider the implications of their decisions before acting.

8. Self-Centered or Inconsistent 

We will accept any leadership style as long as two things are true:  1) The leader is perceived to be in it for something other than themselves. 2) Their behaviour is consistent.

9. Not Being Self-Reflective

You must be able to criticize yourself if you want to improve. If you are incapable of doing this then it may come as a big shock when others do it for you.


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