3 Common Mistakes Leaders Make (and How to Avoid Them)

The wooden block fell out of order

No one likes to make mistakes, but it’s a part of being human.

When it comes to leadership, one significant mistake can cause you to fail. 

Take Jordan, a division President as an example. In one of his big hiring decisions, he was down to two external candidates. Everyone in the company preferred Ron over Ellen because of his deep industry experience. But in the interview process, Jordan saw significant character issues that he thought would cause problems down the road. Instead of trusting his judgment, he hired Ron anyway. Sure enough, within two years, Ron cost the company millions of dollars in a lawsuit because of a flawed character decision. If that wasn’t enough, Jordan lost his job because of Ron’s actions.  

Since then, Jordan has bounced back and gone on to be the CEO of a high-growth company, but he refuses to make the same mistake again. He spends a significant amount of time refining the organization’s hiring system and evaluating core values alignment before signing anyone on the dotted line.  

In studying so many great leaders and coaching leaders like Jordan, I have learned an essential lesson:

All leaders make mistakes, the best leaders learn from them and refuse to make them again.  

Mistakes Come in All Sizes

A mistake is defined as an action or judgment that is misguided or wrong. As previously noted, leaders can fail because of significant errors, but more often than not, it’s repeating the same small mistakes over and over again that cause an unengaged team. With this in mind, here are some less obvious mistakes I see that you will want to avoid to be a more effective leader. 

1. Focusing on the Gap, Not the Gain

There is a good chance you wouldn’t be in a leadership position if you didn’t have a vision for a better place tomorrow than where you are today. Because of this, it’s tempting to focus on the gap between where you are concerning that vision versus how far you have come. 

In a recent episode of the Follow My Lead Podcast, Pete Burak described it so well, “Many millennial leaders make the mistake of not trusting the process and measuring the gain and not the gap.” Not only is Burak right, but every leader regardless of age, can make this mistake. You can watch the clip here.

2. Losing Sight of a Deeper Purpose

It will always be easier as a manager to focus on the outcome of hitting metrics. While targets such as revenue are crucial for any business, it’s a mistake to only focus on them and lose sight of a deeper purpose.  

For some people, “purpose” feels like a righteous or elitist word. But being able to persevere through tough times or challenge your team to new heights often requires a more profound purpose or cause. Dr. Miles Munroe said, “you must believe, deep inside of you, that you were born to do more than survive, make a living, and die. You were created with a gift inside of you; your job is to find that gift and serve it to the world.”

The best leaders not only know this, but they lean into it. They spend the time, energy, and effort to determine their deeper purpose and connect their team to a cause beyond just making money.  

3. Taking Credit for Sucess and Shifting Blame for Failure

Taking credit and shifting blame is a mistake many leaders in big organizations have made to jockey for hierarchical positions. However, it’s not an error you want to repeat. Great leaders take more responsibility for mistakes and less responsibility for success. 

Great leaders take more responsibility for a team’s mistakes and less responsibility for a team’s success.

By leading this way, team members will recognize what you are doing and give more effort in the future to elevate the job you are doing. Everyone will make mistakes when they are doing challenging work, so embrace leadership’s responsibility and stop blaming your team. As Jack Welch famously said,

“When you were made a leader you weren’t given a crown, you were given the responsibility to bring out the best in others.”


I don’t know anyone who likes making mistakes, but if you aren’t going to repeat them it required significant mental energy and effort. If you recognize you are making some of these mistakes in the way you lead, don’t beat yourself up. A mentor reminded me recently, “a mistake should be your teacher, not your attacker. A mistake is a lesson, not a loss. It is a temporary, necessary detour, not a dead end.”

Brush off your mistakes, learn from them, and try not to make them again.

Do you agree? What are simple mistakes you see managers make?

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About the Author: John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company helping executives and managers to lead their best. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success. You can follow him on Instagram @johngeades

7 Simple Lessons to Be a Better Leader Right Now

In search of great idea

One of the most impressive things about all great leaders is their relentless pursuit of wisdom. They do this through a learning cycle of knowledge, comprehension, and application that goes on their entire lives. 

What’s fascinating about leadership is many timeless principles remain the same, while at the same time, leaders need to change to remain successful in modern times. This is precisely why great leaders are grounded in principles but always keep an open mind and a learning mindset.

Great leaders are grounded in principles but always keep an open mind and a learning mindset.  

Whether you are the CEO of a company, managing a team, or just trying to lead your family better, these lessons will change your perspective on leadership or remind you what you already know. 

Lesson 1: Being a Leader Means It’s No Longer About You

Recent statistics show 40% of new managers fail within the first 24 months of taking their job. One of the primary reasons is managers believe and act like their promotion is about them. The truth is, the only day your title matters is the day you receive it. After that, all that matters is how you bring out the best in others.  

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“When you were made a leader you weren’t given a crown, you were given the responsibility to bring out the best in others.” Jack Welch

Lesson 2: Leadership Isn’t about Power, but Excellence

Many people in leadership positions are ambitious. Which by itself isn’t a bad thing. However, ambition for power is bad, ambition for excellence is good. Your job is to channel your ambition into being an excellent leader focused on putting others’ needs ahead of your own and raising the bar on effort and performance. 

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“Leadership is not about control but service. It’s not about power but empowerment.” – Dr. Myles Munroe

Lesson 3: A Leader’s Actions Matter More Than the Position

Most people with a title consider themselves a leader, but it couldn’t be further from the truth in reality. If it weren’t for the paycheck that hit their team’s account every two weeks, their team wouldn’t do or listen to a thing they said. The reason for this isn’t the title one has, but their actions daily.  

Your actions will always matter more than your words, especially when it comes to leadership. 

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“Leadership is an action, not a position.” – Donald McGannon

Lesson 4: Leaders are Dealers of Hope and Courage

There are moments in time where the stakes are higher than usual for a team or organization. In military terms, this would be in a time of war, and business terms would be navigating a Global Pandemic. It’s times like this where uncertainty, fear, and worry consumes people.  

However, great leaders recognize this and know their job is to be a dealer of hope and courage to their people. To help them reject fear and step into courage. The reason is simple, leaders who don’t encourage will eventually be surrounded by a discouraged team.  

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“The role of a leader is to define reality and give hope.” Napoleon

Lesson 5: Leaders Take the Blame and Give the Credit.

The late great Kobe Bryant said, “Leadership is responsibility.” Bryant was right, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. It’s tempting to blame others when things go wrong, and easy to take credit for a team’s success when things go right. But just because it’s tempting and easy doesn’t mean it’s right. If you are in a leadership position, taking responsibility when things go wrong and giving credit when things go right is required. 

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“When things go wrong, take all the blame. When things go right, give away all the credit.” – Dave Cancel

Lesson 6: Leaders Choose Positivity over Negativity

The current business world makes it hard to be optimistic. I don’t know if it’s the amount of negative information we receive, the speed at which judgments are cast, the sheer amount of people doing work they hate, or some combination of the three. If you are anything like me, you have struggled to maintain optimism during difficult times.

But the best leaders don’t give in to this kind of thinking. They don’t lower themselves or their mind to negative thinking. Instead, they train themselves and those around them to choose positivity over negativity.  

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“Being positive won’t guarantee you’ll succeed. But being negative will guarantee you won’t.” – Jon Gordon

Lesson 7: Leaders Coach, They Don’t Judge

Conventional thinking has leaders believing their job is to be judge and jury over people and decision making. While there is no doubt part of a leader’s job is to make decisions, the correct thought process is for leaders to think of themselves as a coach, instead of a judge.  

There is enough judgment in this world, and having it passed onto us by a boss isn’t what we need. What’s needed is someone to help coach us and develop the skills required to be successful.  If you want to sharpen your coaching skills, register for the next Coaching for Excellence Workshop.

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“A leader is a coach, not a judge.” – Dr. William Edwards Deming


Living out all seven of these lessons each day as a leader is difficult. But knowing you are in relentless pursuit of wisdom and understanding like so many great leaders who walked before you should be proof that you’re on the right path. 

Which lessons is your favorite, or what would you add? Let me know in the comments. 

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About the Author: John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company helping executives and managers to lead their best. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success. You can follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

Why Generosity Is The Essential Attribute of Leadership

business persons plan a project

The business world lost Jack Welch on March 1st, 2020. He was a great businessman and professional who drastically evolved as a leader during his 84 years. Luckily he left behind some great leadership and management lessons.

During Welch’s 20 year tenure at GE, he was able to increase the company’s value by 4,000 percent, growing its market value from $12 billion to $410 billion. You could make an argument that this impact was one of the greatest achievements in the history of CEOs.

Here is where it gets interesting. Welch was considered by most to be a ruthless and a results-driven leader. So much so, he was nicknamed “Neutron Jack” because of his aggressive firing policy in the mid ’80s (known as the “vitality curve”).  

While the majority of organizations no longer use the “vitality curve” method, organizational leaders have learned from and implemented strategies from Welch’s experience. A couple of years ago, I learned a leadership lesson from “Neutron Jack” that I never thought I would.

Tim Ferriss interviewed Frank Blake the Former CEO and Chairman of Home Depot (a great leader in his own right) and former direct report at GE to Jack Welch. During the interview, Blake recalled a story in which he asked Welch, “Of all of the attributes of leadership, if you had to weigh them all and pick one, what is the single most important attribute of leadership?” 

“The single most important attribute of leadership is generosity.” – Jack Welch

What is generosity?

Most people think of generosity in terms of money but it’s defined differently. Websters defines it as the quality of being kind, understanding and not selfish; the willingness to give valuable things to others. This is how Welch was using the term to describe how important it is for leaders to be fueled by the success of others.

If you want to be a more generous leader as Welch suggests, here are a few ideas:

Model servant leadership.

Through all the interviews I have done on the “Follow My Lead” podcast and working with companies of all sizes to help improve the leadership skills of their people, I have come to define leadership in Building the Best this way.

Someone whose actions inspire, empower, and serve in order to ELEVATE OTHERS over an extended period of time.

Now it’s one thing to know this definition, it’s completely different to model it and live it out for your people every single day. Instead of waking up thinking about yourself, do your very best to think about your team.

Give of your time, not money.

One of my favorite quotes ever is from John Crudele about parenting, “Kids spell love T-I-M-E.” If you want to be a more generous leader, start with giving more of your time. There is absolutely nothing you can do to replace the time you spend transferring knowledge and getting to know people one-on-one. By the time you spend with people, you might uncover money is needed, but let that be the last resort.

Seek out opportunities to fuel the success of others.

I believe with all my heart, leaders don’t create followers but they create more leaders. So instead of hoarding the best talent on your team, seek out opportunities to help them advance in their career through new tasks, roles, or job functions. 

This means you will lose talented people to promotions or new opportunities. While it might hurt you in the short term, not only is it the right thing to do for someone else it will also attract more talented people to join you on the journey.

Those leaders who aren’t doing these three things are being the opposite of a generous and will find themselves as part of the reason their team never reaches its full potential.  

How do you live out the attribute of generosity in your leadership approach?

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About the Author: John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company that exists to turn managers into leaders and create healthier places to work. He is currently booking events and speaking engagements for 2020. John was named one of LinkedIn’s 2017 Top Voices in Management & Workplace and was awarded the 2017 Readership Award by Training Industry.com. John is also the host of the “Follow My Lead” Podcast, a show that transfers stories and best practices from today’s leaders to the leaders of tomorrow. You follow him on Instagram @johngeades.