12 Mistakes to Avoid As a First Time Leader

Studies show that about half of all new leaders either fail or give up on pursuing a leadership path. New leaders always have a lot to learn, and mistakes—sometimes lots of them—are part of the process. But some mistakes are more costly than others. If you can avoid the worst of them, you can build your credibility and deliver the results that will steer you toward success.

New leaders don’t have to look green. Avoid these foundational mistakes and people will assume you’re a seasoned and experienced leader.

1. Letting your emotions get the best of you. When you’re in a position of leadership you can never let your emotions control you. Of course you’re going to experience emotions, and in some circumstances it’s appropriate for those emotions to be visible—but never to the point where you’re no longer in control of the situation.

2. Compromising on your values. There will always be pressure that comes with leadership. Sometimes compromise is the best way forward, but at other times you’ll be asked to make an outright choice that goes either for or against your values. When that moment comes, remember that the best leaders chose what’s right, not what’s easy.

3. Dismissing the importance of clear communication. A leader who fails to provide clear guidance is frustrating for everyone within their sphere. When communication is ambiguous, when reports and instructions are unclear, people feel uncertain and hesitant to act. As a leader, its important to understand that people crave guidance and clarity.

4. Demonstrating bullying behavior. Any leader who thinks bullying will get people to do what they want, is not only a bad leader but doesn’t even have a clue about leadership. Every true leader understands that there’s a direct correlation between how people are treated and how they work. Fear is never a good motivator, but encouragement always works. Bottom line: all bully leaders eventually fail and fall.

5. Fluctuating priorities. It’s difficult and stressful to work for a leader who is constantly changing their mind, or shifting their view of what’s important. as a leader, you need to realize that your inconsistency will cause turmoil. therefore, as a leader you must decide what is important and keep it a priority.

6. Lacking accessibility. Leaders need to be present and available. The more you’re in touch with your people, the more you’ll know what’s going on and the more people will trust you with what’s happening. Everyone occasionally needs a minute or for a question or report or to brag about a success. Accessibility improves not only morale but also productivity, because you’re there to provide answers and keep things moving.

7. Reprimanding people in public. This is a principle that is worth repeating and repeating again: if you have to reprimand someone or even discuss a mistake, do it in private. When people lose dignity, you lose respect.

8. Talking dishonesty. It’s a simple truth that honesty breeds trust and dishonesty erodes it. When you tell the truth, you never have to keep your story straight. Lying may save you some trouble in the short run, but nothing is worth your integrity.

9. Displaying favoritism. It’s appropriate to praise top performers, but remember to spread positive attention as much as you can, especially in public. Favoritism, or even the appearance of it, will cause unhappiness, kill productivity, and cost you in respect. Nobody likes being overlooked.

10. Acting as though you’re the smartest in the room. Even if you are—and it’s never a safe assumption—never act like it. Don’t make pronouncements, but ask questions and listen. Listen to learn, listen to understand, listen to empower others to speak their mind.

11. Making promises you cannot keep. Those you lead take you at your word. What may seem like a minor promise to you may be much more important to them. Your responsibility is to be accountable to your promises and make them happen. You can’t lead if you don’t keep your word.

12. Saying “my way or the highway.” If you aspire to being thought of as a leader who’s  domineering, dictatorial, and close-minded, this kind of attitude will get you there quickly. It shuts people up and shuts them down. If you want to be a successful and respected leader, make it a point to consider the opinions of others and be willing to adjust your decisions if better ideas come along.

Lead from within: We all make mistakes, but some mistakes have a higher price tag than others. Especially when you’re just starting out, set a good tone and make sure you stay far away from avoidable major mistakes.



N A T I O N A L   B E S T S E L L E R
The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness

After decades of coaching powerful executives around the world, Lolly Daskal has observed that leaders rise to their positions relying on a specific set of values and traits. But in time, every executive reaches a point when their performance suffers and failure persists. Very few understand why or how to prevent it.

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Photo Credit: iStock Photo

Lolly Daskal is one of the most sought-after executive leadership coaches in the world. Her extensive cross-cultural expertise spans 14 countries, six languages and hundreds of companies. As founder and CEO of Lead From Within, her proprietary leadership program is engineered to be a catalyst for leaders who want to enhance performance and make a meaningful difference in their companies, their lives, and the world.

Of Lolly’s many awards and accolades, Lolly was designated a Top-50 Leadership and Management Expert by Inc. magazine. Huffington Post honored Lolly with the title of The Most Inspiring Woman in the World. Her writing has appeared in HBR, Inc.com, Fast Company (Ask The Expert), Huffington Post, and Psychology Today, and others. Her newest book, The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness has become a national bestseller.

  1. Larry Biddle

    07. Aug, 2018

    Your insideOUT inSIGHTS are so stellar! So brings home to me my journey with learnaslead.com in Sausalito, CA.
    Look forward to hearing from you!
    Your Eagleship4eaglets is Teaching4Learning4Life!

    Larry Biddle

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  2. Hannah Hoole

    08. Aug, 2018

    Hi Lolly, love this post. As a first time leader myself I find these tips extremely helpful. It can be extremely difficult to lead a diverse group of people whose values don’t always align with yours. I find myself often compromising for the good of the group, however I think it is important to stick to your values as a good leader. If a leader can follow your twelve insights when leading, they will be very respected and go far in their career. I will definitely apply these insights into my leadership opportunities and career.

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