The Seven Mistakes Leaders Make

March 1, 2004
By Joanne Sujansky, Ph.D. Leading a firm to success in today's marketplace is difficult. An uncertain economy and unpredictable market changes make many

By Joanne Sujansky, Ph.D.

Leading a firm to success in today's marketplace is difficult. An uncertain economy and unpredictable market changes make many employees uncertain of what to do. When leaders fail them, they either jump ship or stay on board, floundering and performing at reduced levels. There are seven mistakes that leaders in corporations, educational institutions and government organizations typically make:

1. LACK OF TRUST. Leaders develop a following by developing trust. When trust doesn't exist, employees look for someone else to follow, inside or outside the organization. Trust is based on integrity. It's all about being honest, keeping promises, being fair. Leaders are judged by what they do everyday. Lose trust … you lose your followers.

2. FAILURE TO SHAPE AND SHARE A VISION. You need to share the organizational vision and goals so employees understand the big picture. Realize that team members want to know where the organization is going and how that direction impacts their personal objectives. As events and circumstances change, communicate that to them as well. The more you reveal to employees the more leadership they'll feel they have. Help them to vividly see the future.

3. UNCLEAR EXPECTATIONS. Each employee needs clear focus, especially during uncertain times. When employees see the economy turn sour or cutbacks occur, they naturally fear any change that could impact their own future. To keep those fears from surfacing, continually communicate with your employees and state your expectations of them. Tell them what you want, what they did right, what you expect of them and how you measure their progress.

4. INSUFFICIENT MODELING OF DESIRED BEHAVIORS. You must demonstrate the behaviors that you want from others. When you take a leadership role, you actually lose some rights … the right to let your performance decline, the right to blame someone or something else. There is no break time, it's 24/7 for showing others the way you wish them to be.

5. NOT ENOUGH PARTNERING. When we reach out to others to achieve mutually desired results, we are partnering. Leaders must lead the way by partnering with other organizational leaders, employees, vendors, etc. Each person brings a unique set of skills and experiences to the partnering process. Leaders must think and talk in terms of "we," involving others in decisions that affect them and the business whenever possible.

6. FAILURE TO RETAIN TOP TALENT. Leaders need to behave in a way that makes the "keepers" want to stay. Top talent wants to be recognized and praised for contribution. High achievers want some "room," some authority to do what they know needs to be done. They also want to be growing themselves while working with you to grow the company. Hold them back and they'll go elsewhere.

7. TOO LITTLE CELEBRATION OF SUCCESS. The pressures of the day-to-day are felt by everyone. Leaders must find multiple opportunities to acknowledge individual and team accomplishments. Impromptu parties, award dinners and staff meetings are all ways to stop, say thanks and encourage further success.

Leaders need to avoid these seven mistakes or pitfalls. Today's employees have high standards for their leaders. They want to know what to expect, where the company is going and how they fit into the big picture.

Joanne G. Sujansky, Ph.D., CSP (Certified Speaking Professional), is the founder of KEYGroup and author of six books, including The Keys to Mastering Leadership. KEYGroup provides Joanne Sujansky's keynote speeches, books and tapes as well as corporate leadership programs based on Dr. Sujansky's founding principles of "Unlocking The Leader Within." Reach her at 724-942-7900 or at