March 27, 2014

7 Crippling Mistakes that Business Leaders Can Make


Learn from the experiences of like-minded MDs, executives and business leaders and look at alternative ways to improve your SMART thinking!

As a business coach I know it is difficult to ever prescribe the perfect conditions for success however I really want to ensure behaviours that can cause failure can be avoided wherever possible. I’ve discussed the reasons for failure with numerous high level executives who claim a lack of skill, expertise or experience as their downfall.

But why is it that some leaders with exactly the same armoury are able to propel themselves continually upwards while others find themselves shooting head first into a pit of failure? - It is their behaviour that differs.

These are a few behaviours that I have found common place among those having difficulties and by identification I hope that they will help you to avoid them in your day to day life.

If you find yourself making any of these mistakes – stop and change - they will tarnish your reputation, hurt your leadership ability and damage your credibility.

  1. Whine

    This is a pet hate of mine when leaders make excuses and play the blame game. As the leader you are 100% accountable for what happens in your organisation and you need to stay fixed in that reality at all times.
  1. Never Ever Change

    If you are unmovable and content with the status quo- there is something seriously wrong. Apathy and disinterest will breed as we live in a constantly fluctuating world where everything is changing including client expectations. No change in your business will enable you to feel free to continue missing out on incredible business opportunities and to enjoy minimising your market share.
  1. Lie

    All lies will eventually catch up with you- it is inevitable. You must consider if the lie you might tell is really worth disrupting the levels of trust that others have invested in you. Leaders who lie have no credibility, and you can’t be a great leader without trust. Trust affects a leader’s impact and the company’s bottom line more than any other single thing.
  1. Be an Evil Dictator

    Simon Sinek in his latest book “Leaders eat last” states that the most successful leaders strive to create a circle of safety in their businesses by showing they care and value each and every worker within their organisation every day. 

  1. Make empty threats

    Throwing a tantrum are we? If you have to use a threat you must be one hundred percent sure that you will go through with it if the situation arises (which should be rarely). Otherwise you will lose credibility.
  1. Be a Power Junkie

    Power is not the mark of success. In fact successful leadership is not the extension of power rather it is giving others the ownership and drive to succeed with the power granted to you.
  1. Ignore the truth

    Denial of potential problems is a huge contributor to the effective failure of any organisation. Denial prevents business owners creating the strategy that they require to overcome these problems, and inevitably these will only grow in size if you ignore them.

Leading a company is a difficult and yet wonderful and challenging experience requiring a level of commitment from which it is always easy to unconsciously fall foul of a few of these habits. When I was a CEO working across both public and private sectors, I had occasions when I didn’t face the truth until the situation was almost irreversible or ended up being a “dictator” due to time pressures or impatience on my behalf.

However in my position as a Vistage Chair my experiences are only important when shared as experiences to others – not as examples of success or failure but as opportunities for others to learn from my mistakes.

As leaders we are responsible for much more than the success of the business, we are responsible for our people and for ourselves.

I would encourage you to take a little time out of operational mode, to reflect on your recent actions in the business, are you consistently at the top of your game or do bad habits interrupt and affect the way you lead?

I know from personal experience that an executive’s life can be lonely and sometimes these habits can be difficult to spot, especially if you are focusing “in the business” rather than “on the business” strategically.

This habit is one of the key reasons members gain strategic advantage from the Vistage group, in that the members do not allow each other to operate ”in the business” rather than “on it”.

I want you to be a better leader and I hope a personal understanding of these habits will give you reflection time for yourself - today. 

More from Vistage:

Vistage Economic Update Feb 2014

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