Avoid these Common Leadership Mistakes

Updated on 13 May 2014

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9 big mistakes all leaders should avoid

Plenty has been said about the importance of good leadership and the qualities that make up a good leader, everything from being decisive and responsible to leading by example. Not enough is said about the areas where most managers and leaders fall short and how this can impact the team they lead.


The globally recognised American Harvard Business School took this question to recognised management thought leaders from some of the world’s leading business schools including Harvard Business SchoolSaïd Business School and Oxford University.

Here are their thoughts on some of the biggest character flaws a leader can display:

1. “The most significant mistake so many leaders have made in the last 20 years and it’s very upsetting to me, is that they have put their self-interest ahead of the best interest of the institution and organisations that they run”.
– Bill George, Professor, Harvard Business School


2. “Betraying trust, if you break that one, none of the others matters
– Evan WittenbergHead of Global Leadership Development, Google Inc


3. “Being certain. Things are constantly changing, things are unpredictable”. “When you think you know, you don’t pay attention any longer”. “Leaders exploit the power in uncertainty”.
– Dr Ellen Langer, Professor Harvard University


4. “Leaders who espouse values but don’t deliver them are very rapidly found out and very rapidly turned over. This is the biggest crime a leader can ever commit”.
– Andrew PettigrewProfessor, Saïd Business School, University of Oxford


5. “They lose all capacity for all self-doubt. They sometimes get caught up in becoming, completely, single-mindedly focused on the pursuit of a purpose and that moves from being a purpose and a passion to almost becoming an obsession”.
– Gianpiero Petriglieri, Affiliate Professor of Organisational Behaviour at INSEAD


6. “Personal arrogance and hubris, and confusing the size of the enterprise or success of the enterprise with the individual persona”.
 Carl Sloane, Professor Emeritus, Harvard Business School


7. “Potentially acting too fast and executing before thinking through the actual issue”
– Jonathan Doodin, Leadership Institute at Harvard College


8. “The two biggest mistakes are: not being authentic and consistent and predictable, and it being all about you and not something bigger than yourself”.
– Scott SnookAssociate Professor, Harvard


9. “The people who are the worst leaders are people who just bulldoze forward and just plough forward through life making mistakes, not really looking back at the past, not learning as they go, and not necessarily being self-aware of how they are affecting the people around them”.
– Daisy Wademan DowlingExecutive Director, Leadership Development at Morgan Stanley

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