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Lead Your Team Leadership

7 Common Leadership Mistakes You're Probably Making

7 Common Leadership Mistakes You're Probably Making
Credit: Rawpixel/Shutterstock

Being a leader comes with a host of responsibilities, including handling workplace issues and setting a good example. You're often held to high expectations as the person in charge, and managing an entire team of people can be intimidating.

However, no one is perfect; there is always room to learn and grow, and to help your employees do the same. Here are eight common mistakes that many leaders struggle with and how to fix them.

Holding a position of power may be good for your ego, but it's important that you and your employees know you're not above your shortcomings.

"Leaders must not be afraid to recognize their own failures," said Joe Chiarello, owner of two Murphy Business & Financial Corporation franchises. "We all fall down at some point, but what really matters is the way we pick ourselves up and learn from our mistakes. This is what helps us grow and makes us stronger."

When employees recognize that failure is natural, even for leaders, they'll feel more open-minded and confident.

One of the most difficult adjustments a new leader has to make is learning how to handle disagreements or issues. You want to be fair and balanced while avoiding potential conflict, but, sometimes, that's difficult.

"Managers often veer away from confrontation and try to avoid it at all costs," said Mark Feldman, vice president of marketing at Stynt. "But when performance or personality issues go unaddressed, they fester and set an overall tone that minimizes the urgency of correcting mistakes. If there is (an) issue, it's best to address it right away when the situation is fresh."

Feldman noted that many issues blamed for incompetence or poor performance are actually a result of misunderstood expectations.

"Create an environment that encourages continuous feedback, and be exact with dates and expected outcomes," he said.  

Leaders are typically hired or promoted to their positions because they know what needs to be done and how to do it. This may be accompanied by the mentality of "if you want something done right, do it yourself," which can be a dangerous attitude to have when managing a team.

Completing or tweaking employees' work because it's not to your liking, or not delegating tasks, not only creates more work for you but hinders your team from reaching its full potential. 

"When leaders take on the responsibility of completing a team member's work, they are actually doing the team and themselves a disservice," said Nancy Mellard, executive vice president and general counsel of CBIZ Women's Advantage. "(It) is breeding ground for disengagement."

According to Mellard, by getting into this habit, a talented team member may bring a project to only 75 percent completion, assuming the leader will finish the rest. As a result, performance moves in the wrong direction while the leader takes on more responsibility for the team's overall project demands.

"As leaders, we must push our teams to go beyond the satisfactory," she added. "It's different than delegating – it's challenging your team to take it upon themselves to perform better each time and working alongside them to facilitate the process."

You've been assigned to a leadership position because someone else trusts your judgment. Consistently second-guessing yourself rubs off on others, and before you know it, that trust is gone. Don't be afraid to obey your gut instinct.

"While it's important to listen to others, employees and clients alike, sometimes this can be very dangerous to an innovative startup. If you truly believe in what you are doing, it's OK to listen only to yourself sometimes. (Be) loyal to your internal compass," said Moran Zur, founder and CEO of SafeBeyond.

Adjusting to tech developments is inevitable in the business world. You have no choice but to confront these changes and determine how it will affect your company.

"Many roles face … being replaced by bots utilizing AI and machine learning," said Cindy J. Ford, vice president and general manager, U.S. and Latin America, at IT solutions provider Cogeco Peer 1. "Identify those roles early, then you can begin to train employees on new skills to help them grow through this transformation."

By being proactive and honest with your team, you will alleviate stress and anxiety caused by these transitions.

Innovation is different for every company and each person in it. As a leader, you need to define what it looks like to your organization and what obstacles might impede it, said Ford.

"While innovation needs to be fostered, clear expectations will prevent too much deviation from … activities proven to grow the business," she added. "Helping your team stay focused on specific innovation initiatives will allow you test ideas methodically, without spreading innovation efforts so thin they can't be tested or [aren't] effective."

Additionally, it's important to trust your employees with these processes. If you're too involved, you might discourage their creativity.

Without vision, a company will have difficulty progressing. As a leader, it's your responsibility to set expectations and goals for your organization in addition to holding each member accountable for reaching them.

"A lack of vision will result in unfocused projects, improper resources planning, inaccurate metrics for success, and a lack of buy-in from the rest of the organization," said Ford. "Leadership has to champion a vision that will align the entire organization, enabling them to effectively work together toward common goals."

According to Ford, if you want to attract and retain talent, you must create a culture with a clear vision.

Additional reporting by Shannon Gausepohl and Nicole Fallon. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.

Sammi Caramela

Sammi Caramela has always loved words. When she isn't working as a Purch B2B staff writer, she's writing (and furiously editing) her first novel, reading a YA book with a third cup of coffee, or attending local pop-punk concerts. The only time Sammi doesn't play it safe is when she's writing. Reach her by email, or check out her blog at sammisays.org.