In 2019, I was recognized as the “CEO of the Year” at the UK’s Business Excellence Forum.
Despite receiving that recognition, leadership was not something that came naturally to me.
It was something I had to deliberately work on throughout my career.
I learned from countless mistakes along my journey. And I still continue to learn today.
Here are the top 7 mistakes I believe great leaders don’t make.
1. Being indecisive
Great leaders make decisions faster, focusing on speed over precision. They involve others in the process, focused on giving everyone a voice, rather than a vote. They try to make fewer decisions by questioning whether action is truly needed right now, or if it can wait. And they continuously improve their decision-making over time by asking what went well and what didn’t, while also admitting when they’re wrong.
So, how decisive are you? Do you make decisions quickly or do you tend to sit on things? To what degree are you slowing down the performance of those around you as a result?
2. Being unreliable
Top leaders strive for personal consistency. They are not just reliable, but relentlessly reliable. They pride themselves on doing what they say they’ll do when they say they’ll do it. They hold themselves accountable when they miss their commitments and become known for their follow-through. By holding themselves to the highest standards they earn the right to hold others to similar standards.
Where do you score on the relentless reliability scale? Do you have a reputation for being a master of accountability and follow-through? How much better could the team perform if you upped your own game?
3. Not continuously learning
Nearly every ultra-successful person I know points to reading as a cornerstone of their success. This includes billionaires like Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and Mark Cuban. Reading a single book often compresses a decade or more of life experiences into a few hundred pages. So, for a “payment” of 10 hours or less you can acquire knowledge spanning 10 years or more.
Are you continuously learning? Or are you continuously saying that someday you’ll start continuously learning?
4. Not creating clarity
A great leader isn’t just the chief executive officer of their team, they’re also the chief editing officer. In a sea of choice great leaders give themselves and others the permission to stop trying to do it all and say yes to everyone. They are masters of “no”. They focus not on getting more things done, but on getting the right things done, rallying everyone behind their vision, and ensuring all team members know where they fit into the plan.
Are you creating the clarity you and your team so desperately need? Are you prioritizing what needs to be done and helping others to do the same? Is everyone clear how they contribute, why it matters, and where everyone is going?
5. Not adapting to change
Great leaders adapt boldly to change. They are willing to let go of approaches that may have been previously successful – whether past company strategies, business models, or personal habits – and experiment with new approaches, until they find a way forward.
To what degree do you resist change? Do you tend to do things in a particular way, because “that’s how they’ve always been done”? How might being stuck in your old ways be hurting your potential going forward?
6. Avoiding conflict
Top leaders don’t just avoid conflict, they actually mine for it and bring it to the surface. They step into difficult conversations and speak openly and candidly when things aren’t going well, or when a change is needed.
Are there any conversations that you know you should be having, but haven’t yet? Do you dress up your messages rather than say how you really feel? Could this conflict avoidance be holding you back?
7. Not focusing on results
The ultimate way to measure the performance of a team is whether or not it achieves the results it sets out for itself. Great leaders acknowledge and praise effort, but also remember that it’s the results that matter in the end. There’s little point in playing your heart out on the field every day, only to lose every game.
Do you stay focused on the goals and metrics that matter? Do you encourage your colleagues and team to do the same? How might an inattention to results stand in the way between hope and true success?
So how many of the mistakes are you committing above? To what degree do you want to transition yourself, and those around you, from average or good leadership to great leadership? What might that do for your team or company?
And, most importantly, what are you going to do about it?