Mistakes that Leaders Should Avoid

By | February 6, 2020

[February 6, 2020]  Leaders make mistakes all the time.  We all make mistakes, but some mistakes can be avoided if we are to be good leaders.  My good friend Wilson used to throw rocks at cars (when we were kids).  He quickly learned that rock throwing was a mistake when, one day, a young man got out of his car and chased us around the neighborhood.  We thought he was going to kill us.  Fear is a great motivator.

Here are a few mistakes that leaders should avoid:

  1. Trying to change people. You really can’t change people, but you can change yourself.  If you want to lead other people, you need to show others that you can successfully drive yourself through self-motivation and inspiration.  You can also prove through personal example that following your strategies is an admirable thing that leads to desirable results.  Take control over yourself, organize your local landscape, stop saying things you know to be lies, address your health, volunteer to help people, and move forward in life.
  2. Not telling the truth. If you can tell the truth as carefully as you can, then, whatever happens is the best that could have possibly happened in that situation no matter how it looks.  Many famous stories drive the idea home.  The story of Aladdin illustrates this well.  Aladdin does not want to tell the princess he is only a poor “street rat” and thus not worthy.  Later he is forced to fess up but only when his lie begins to destroy, not support, their relationship.
  3. Refusing to acknowledge your shadow. We all have a dark side; that part of us that is malevolent and wicked.  It’s the devil on your shoulder that wants to hurt others, rage, and lie.  If you don’t admit it, it will run you without realizing it.  Only by accepting your vain desires can you overcome them.  The solution is to integrate your shadow; it will make you stronger.  The shadow must be acknowledged; your fears, your guilt, and sometimes your joy.

“By a lie, a man … annihilates his dignity as a man.” – Immanuel Kant, Prussian-German philosopher

The message cannot be more clear.  First, fix yourself first before you attempt to fix the world.  Second, tell the truth.  And third, integrate your shadow.  These actions form a strong foundation.  The more you practice these points, the more you become an honest, integrated individual, and by doing so, you are precisely what the world needs you to be.  And it means living the consequences of telling and acting the truth.

Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

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

24 thoughts on “Mistakes that Leaders Should Avoid

  1. Kenny Foster

    “Acknowledge your shadow” … that’s a good one. Something I never really gave much thought. I know that there are a number of psychologist who address this on the margins but here it is boldly stated. Thanks Gen. Satterfield for some great advice on how to be a better leader and much better person.

    1. José Luis Rodriguez

      Yes, wonderful guidance and realistic. Too much of what we read and hear today is just trash talk. This is the real deal.

  2. Deplorable John

    Anyone see the State of the Union address by Pres. Trump? In the background, at the end of the speech, Nancy Pelosi tore up the speech copy she had. This is an example of someone who denies reality and thus the truth. She acted childishly and irresponsibly. It matters not that she did it out of spite, preplanned or not, or whether she was just a nut (like some folks here think). She did not set a good example as a leader.

    1. old warrior

      That is why kicking someone’s butt often enough sends a clear message; stop doing stupid. Today, we let the little wennies get away with just about anything because we don’t want to hurt their little feelings. Now you have pathetic leader-wannabies like Pelosi all grown up living with not having her butt kicked. Sad.

      1. The Kid 1945

        Old warrior, you are just too funny. I nearly coughed up my breakfast. Lesson for me, don’t eat breakfast at the same time I read this blog.

  3. Harry Donner

    My mother always told me to tell the truth but I was always getting into trouble for doing so. As a teenager, I was one of the biggest liars around. Why tell the truth when a lie makes you escape responsibility and people like you more (at least until the lies caught up with me). Now I tell the truth and let the chips fall as they may.

    1. Ronny Fisher

      I know what you’re saying here and I had a similar experience growing up. As an adult, however, we should have already passed that stage in life. We are no long kids.

  4. Valkerie

    General Satterfield, excellent article and one that I fear that I cannot follow your recommendations. Telling the truth (especially without a little diplomacy) can be scary.

    1. Linux Man

      Great comment, Valkerie. Your fear is exactly what Gen. Satterfield is trying to tell us. There are unknown and known risks to telling the truth and particularly in not acknowledging our shadow. Hang in there. Give these a try in incrementally small doses. Over time, you will be able to grow and be more satisfied with your life.

    2. Bryan Lee

      Yep, just hang in there. I’m trying to go by this important lesson in life and find it enlightening and keeps me free more than I could have imagined.

  5. Len Jakosky

    Well this advice certainly leaves out all politicians. Sometimes I wonder how they can live with themselves because so much of what they say and do is built upon a house of lies, distortions, and misdirection. I could never be a politician.

  6. Dale Paul Fox

    It’s a mistake thinking we can change people. No wonder women as always disappointed in men; they think they can change them to their way of thinking but it doesn’t work, thus they get disappointed when men don’t change. I was one of those men and my wife was always frustrated with my ‘lack of effort’ on things she thought important. Well, how did that work out? Overall, okay. We are still married, grown children, and a nice retirement.

      1. KenFBrown

        BTW, this is a great video (poor quality but still great) and one everyone should watch. It’s short and to the point. Prof Peterson is always saying “tell the truth” and yet only a few of us really listen.

  7. Janna Faulkner

    Interesting list you have here today, Gen. Satterfield. Your list of attributes (philosophical content, yes) got me to thinking about how to make my life better. Telling the truth is one of those that is risky in our modern society. So, I’m starting to tell the truth slowly and with some tact. I hope that allows me to get there without too much fuss.

    1. Nick Lighthouse

      Janna, here’s wishing you luck. I find that people can’t take the truth in too high of a dose.

    2. Ruth M. McMasters

      “You Can’t Handle The Truth” is a memorable quote from the 1992 military court drama film A Few Good Men, which is often used to deny someone information that has been deemed too sensitive.

    1. Greg Heyman

      So very true and not just basic advice, but this set of principles have been around since the beginning of mankind. Of course, many of us today think we are too sophisticated to have to grovel at such “ancient” ideas so we ignore them. Are we happier than the ancient peoples of Rome and Constantinople? I doubt it.


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