It takes a lot of smarts, experience, vision, intuition and skill to be an effective CEO or business owner. But all leaders must be mindful that their ability to make mistakes—just like everyone else—doesn’t magically disappear when they reach the C-suite.
What’s also true is that the ramifications of high-level mistakes can be significantly greater than those made by others. That’s because, as every business leader well knows, their actions and decisions affect potentially untold numbers of employees, customers, and other stakeholders.
So it’s important to recognize and guard against the types of mistakes leaders sometimes make:
Getting caught up in a job title. Being Chief Executive Officer often means seeing your name on a letterhead, getting an office in a prime location, etc. Yet such trappings “aren’t the qualities of a real leader,” notes business author Deep Patel. What leaders really care about “is the goal at hand, and empowering those around them to do great work.”
Attempting to handle (and control) everything themselves. Every successful business is comprised of many moving parts—far too many for a single individual to handle or control by themselves. Effective leaders can distinguish between what’s genuinely important and what’s better left to others to address. They don’t “sweat the small stuff,” staying focused instead on the company’s vision and plan for strategic growth.
Not owning up to their own mistakes. A refusal to acknowledge when you’ve made a mistake might be the biggest mistake a leader can make. There’s simply too much at stake for a leader not to recognize when he or she has erred, and to evade accountability for a wrong decision.
When something goes wrong, you may find that “much of the time, it can be traced right back to the top,” writes serial entrepreneur Serhat Pala. Acknowledging such a mistake “is one of the best things a leader can do to lead by example and promote accountability in a company.”
Worrying that someone else might steal the spotlight. Successful leaders get a lot of attention, which can become addictive after a while. Sometimes they worry that someone else within the organization might, by virtue of completing an important project or embarking on a key initiative, steal the spotlight. They might even go so far as to hire individuals whom they sense are competent enough, but not likely to outshine them.
This misguided attitude can rob your company of the exceptional talent it needs in today’s marketplace. Strong leaders encourage imagination and initiative in their companies, and generally don’t concern themselves about who gets credit for a big achievement. In such happy circumstances, everyone benefits from success.
Placing blame on others when things go wrong. In the same respect, an insecure or ineffective leader will rush to judgment when something goes wrong. They engage in finger-pointing or, worse, getting rid of someone on the team as a way to deflect attention from themselves.
Effective leadership entails assuming overall responsibility for the business and emphasizing the capacity to learn from bad situations and prevent a reoccurrence in the future. Placing blame is fruitless and only serves to dampen morale and productivity throughout the organization.
With the right attitude, all of these mistakes in leadership can corrected or avoided altogether. By focusing instead on the personality traits that enhance leadership, a business owner or CEO can work together with his or her team and make great strides in future growth.