Common Leadership Mistakes

By | March 16, 2018

[March 16, 2018] This past weekend I had the chance to camp out with a troop of Boy Scouts in one our state parks. As a “winter campout” it focused on how to properly dress for the cold, hygiene, diet, and sleeping warm. What I was to discover is that our new scout leaders made common leadership mistakes that even our most seasoned military leaders make.

Here are ten common leadership mistakes that all leaders make at one time or another; especially junior leaders.

  1. Not Defining Goals: A key task of leadership is to show the team where they are to go to get the job done, why it is necessary, when it must be done, with what resources, and do so with clarity. Team members cannot be productive if they are unclear about their tasks.
  2. Running out of Time: Running out of time to finish a task or complete a mission is so common that most leaders fear this mistake more than any other. Time management is, of course, the solution but “how” to do this is the big issue.
  3. Taking Credit: A frequent error that new leaders make is to take the credit for getting the job done when it was really the team’s accomplishment. The most successful leaders allow others to get the rewards for making it happen.
  4. Shifting Blame: Some leaders not only like the credit for the good things that happen but these same leaders like to shift the blame onto others for any failure. Pointing the finger at others is not an effective tactic because it destroys team integrity.
  5. Not Giving Feedback: A very common mistake is that leaders fail to provide feedback to their team members on how well they are doing. They are also reluctant to tell individuals about mistakes being made by that person. What this means is that the team continues down the track of poor performance.
  6. Failure to Delegate: Many leaders are confused over the idea that control is what leadership is about. They want to tell others what to do; to have themselves in the middle of every decision (regardless of how important). Real leaders know this is a waste of time and are more focused on team building.
  7. Caring about their Title: Rather than focusing on the leadership skills and resources required to get the job done, too many leaders worry about what they are called because that is what they believe leaders do.
  8. Being too Friendly: We all want to be popular and for people to like us. This can be distracting when there is a need to complete tasks that are difficult.
  9. Being too Hands-off: Whenever a leader is not around the team, a familiar result is “mission drift” where work being done is not directed at required tasks. A good leader oversees the work and keeps the team focused and ensures they have the correct resources.
  10. Failing to provide Positive Motivation: Good leadership is about getting people to do things because they “want” to do them. Understanding what motivates folks is the key to making this work.

The Boy Scout leaders this past weekend didn’t make all these mistakes. Fortunately, we all spent the weekend in temperatures below freezing with snow on the ground and no one was injured and they all had fun. This is testament to how well our scouts are learning the basics of leadership.

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Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

9 thoughts on “Common Leadership Mistakes

  1. Shawn C Stolarz

    I am also a Boy Scout leader and proud of it. We teach the boys about leadership but, frankly, we don’t do that great of job. Why? We have adult leaders who absolutely have no leadership experience or education on it. The word ‘leadership’ is just a word to throw out there when they need to use

  2. Anita

    I got a big laugh out of this list where leaders make common mistakes. Perhaps I was just doing a flashback or reminiscence of the olden days. I like reading about this stuff. Where were the resources for junior leaders to learn when we were younger? Oh, no internet but there were books. I don’t rmember any.

  3. Joey Holmes

    Thanks for everyone writing about these common mistakes. I make them and I don’t even do leadership in any position. Ha Ha. Thanks again.

  4. Yusaf from Texas

    I agree, this list reminds me of my youth. I made all these mistakes at one time or another. For those new to leadership, be warned!

  5. Army Captain

    Forgot to mention. Got a call from a good friend of mine who is stationed in Alaska with one of the U.S. Army Engineer units (cannot remember which one) who told me that his commander was making all his junior officers undergo mentoring. The mentoring focuses on some of these very same mistakes made by leaders. I wish I had someone who would have taken time to help me on this. I would have saved a lot of pain.

  6. Army Captain

    This list reminds me of my 2nd Lieutenant days at Fort Benning, Georgia.

  7. Janna Faulkner

    When I went to work for the first time many years ago, I was just another person in a big store. After a few months I got my first promotion, pay raise, and more respect as a woman. It was not the men who had given me a hard time, it was the other women. The list of 10 common mistakes today reminded me of those times and the fact that I embraced every mistake here. Fortunately, I learned and got better but still make many errors like “running out of time”.

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