15 Common Mistakes Every Smart Leader Needs to Stop Making

Leadership isn’t for everyone—it’s reserved for those who possess a unique set of qualities that truly define them as ‘leaders’ while steering clear of certain mistakes that no smart leader should ever do to keep their business and team from disastrous failures.

Thinking You Always Know Best


Thinking you’re always the sharpest one in the room? That might be your first misstep. Top-notch leaders are surrounded by people who can outthink them—and that’s not a threat. 

For example, imagine a brainstorming session where everyone’s ideas are sharper, everyone’s challenging each other, and you’re all climbing a mountain of creativity together. The view from the top (a.k.a. the results) will be worth it!

Speaking More than Listening 


It’s tempting as a leader to take charge and issue commands, but just like in real life, no one appreciates someone who talks too much—this holds true in business too.

By prioritizing listening to your team, you show that you value their contributions, which can lead to uncovering innovative ideas that might otherwise be overlooked. 

Setting Unrealistic Expectations


Sure, shooting for the stars is great, but if the stars are too far out of reach, everyone ends up just staring into space. When setting deadlines, are you considering their other commitments and priorities? Set goals that stretch the team’s capabilities without overwhelming them.  

Ensure that your team has the necessary skills to meet your high standards and that they understand what you expect in terms of quality. If there are gaps, provide training or support to help them improve. Also, instead of just focusing on immediate outcomes, consider the long-term growth and development of your team. 

Holding Unproductive Meetings


Let’s cut down on those meetings that could have been emails. 

Ensure each meeting has a defined purpose and a strict agenda. This way, everyone can contribute efficiently without the session of yawning. 



Honesty is an indispensable value in any organization, serving as the foundation for the culture you aim to cultivate. It ensures consistency in behavior, fosters loyalty and trust, and is critical for long-term organizational success. When leaders prioritize honesty, they create an environment where team members feel inspired, empowered, and validated, which is essential for motivation and productivity.

Psychological honesty, which involves being truthful about one’s feelings, intentions, and concerns, plays a key role in maintaining a healthy workplace atmosphere. When psychological honesty is compromised, it can lead to a lack of trust and a breakdown in team dynamics, which are often harder to repair than the financial losses from moral dishonesty. 

Being a Hypocrite


Hypocrisy can undermine trust quickly. 

If you commit to something, follow through. Ensuring your actions reflect your words strengthens respect and trust among your team. This commitment to integrity sets a powerful example for all team members.

Being a Micromanager


Leaders often fall into the trap of micromanaging, but it’s important to let go a little. 

Give your talented team members room to show their capabilities., as trying to control every aspect can sometimes backfire. Grant your team the freedom to take initiative—you’ll likely discover that the less you hold on, the more they excel!

Imposing Unnecessary Rules

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No one wants to follow a bunch of rules that seem completely unnecessary.

Evaluate the necessity of existing rules within your team or organization. Discard any that complicate tasks without adding value. Streamlining procedures can boost efficiency and morale by reducing frustration and promoting a more flexible work environment.

Tolerating Poor Performance


Tolerating poor performance within a team can have a ripple effect, undermining the overall productivity and morale of the entire group. When subpar performance is overlooked or unaddressed, it sets a precedent that mediocrity is acceptable, potentially leading others to lower their standards as well.

A study highlighting that more than 15% of employees in organizations are underperforming underscores the need for proactive management. Addressing performance issues promptly and constructively is key. Constructive feedback should be aimed at identifying the reasons behind the poor performance—whether it’s a lack of skills, understanding, or motivation—and offering the necessary support to overcome these challenges.

Public Criticism


Public rebukes can create discomfort and diminish trust. Feedback should be a backstage pass—private and focused on development. 

This approach respects the individual and fosters a positive learning environment instead of a place where everyone is embarrassed. 

Not Acknowledging Team Contributions


Great leaders recognize and appreciate their team’s efforts consistently, not just sporadically. Regularly acknowledging good work and showing gratitude for team commitment reinforces positive morale. 

Remind them that stumbling occasionally is a part of achieving success, ensuring they feel valued and supported in their efforts (regardless of the outcome!)

Judging Others

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Avoid the trap of judging others—a common pitfall among leaders. 

Focus on fostering respect and understanding within your team. Encourage open-mindedness and challenge yourself to see situations from multiple perspectives, which will enhance team cohesion and mutual respect.

Being Invisible as a Leader


Visible leaders inspire, motivate, and guide, effectively steering the group towards common goals and resolving conflicts along the way. However, the concept of an invisible leader brings a different (though equally valuable) set of qualities to the table. These leaders may not stand out in the traditional sense, but they pour their dedication into every aspect of their work. 

This commitment to excellence often goes unnoticed because these leaders do not seek recognition; instead, they focus solely on the impact of their actions. Despite their efforts, an unseen leader is usually an unengaging one. Try to increase your visibility and interaction with your team—it’s surprising how impactful simply being recognizable and present can be.

Removing Established Benefits


Removing benefits can demoralize and alienate your team. 

Before making cuts, consider the long-term impact on trust and loyalty—often, the cost of saving now could be much higher in lost morale later.

Discouraging Employee Ideas


It’s unlikely that anyone aspires to become a leader who stifles creativity and enthusiasm among their employees. Yet, despite such intentions, many workplaces are filled with individuals who dread going to work. 

Leaders might unintentionally discourage their teams by dismissing ideas too quickly, overly criticizing new suggestions, avoiding brainstorming sessions, hoarding crucial information, or fostering a work environment that pushes employees to their limits without adequate rest. Such practices can severely dampen innovation and morale.

Support Instead of Putting Down


Instead of falling into these traps, leaders should adopt a more supportive approach. Recognize that employees may not share the same level of passion for the business as you do—and that’s perfectly okay. Encouraging a healthy work-life balance, showing genuine interest in their lives outside the office, and respecting their need for time off can make a huge difference. 

These positive interactions can help employees feel valued and appreciated, which in turn, encourages them to contribute more actively and creatively to the organization.

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