7 Mistakes Every Leader Makes – No Matter How Hard They Try

Woman manager and team


Kayla Heisler
Kayla Heisler1.16k

You did it! After putting in lots of effort and dedication at work, your efforts have been recognized and you’ve landed a supervisor position. But much to your surprise, the journey's just begun. 

After you’ve gained a leadership position, it can take a while to find your footing. And no matter how much effort you put into your role, mistakes are bound to happen along the way. The most important thing to remember is we always have room for improvement. 

Here are seven common mistakes people make in leadership roles and how to learn from them: 

1. You Dream Big for Someone Else

“I felt strongly about an employee’s talent, and I sold my boss on letting them fill a development role as a manager. When I shared the news with this person, I was not met with the reaction I expected. Let’s say they were content in their current position and didn’t want the stress and long hours of being in leadership. I was disappointed, but learned that just because I see more for someone doesn’t mean they want more for themselves.”

-Mindy Green, MG Beauty Owner

2. You Try Copying Leadership Styles

“I tried to mimic other people's management styles. I was dealing with people in a way that was unnatural to my personality. When you come into a leadership position, you have to remember that you were chosen for a reason. Look at what your unique and creative perspective can bring to the team, and use that to your advantage at all times."

-Laurelei Litke, Digital Marketing Content Creator

3. You Hire the Wrong Person

“Years ago, when I worked as a supervisor, I hired the wrong person for a position. She ended up being lazy and unmotivated, and we eventually had to let her go. I wish I had hired our #2, as she stayed on with the company in another capacity and would have been such an asset to our department!"

-Heidi McBain, Licensed Therapist & Professional Counselor

4. You Keep People Around for Too Long

“The biggest mistake and hardest lesson I learned when I started my company is not getting rid of weak people on the team earlier than I did. I spent more time managing them than building my business. I knew in my gut they were not up to snuff, but out of loyalty to them I let them hang around much longer than they should have. As soon as I let them go, the culture got stronger.”

-Paige Arnof-Fenn, Mavens & Moguls Founder & CEO

5. You Give Blanket Critiques

“When I was first starting out as a manager in the retail sector, I used to critique my staff in the general morning meetings. I didn't want to call people out, so instead of being specific, I would continually point out the errors in group sessions hoping the employees I really wanted to talk to would learn from their mistakes. This doesn't work. The only way people are going to learn is by direct instruction. Employees aren't mind readers, and unless you actually tell them what's wrong, the fault lies on the manager.”

-Lauren Gilmore, PR & Prose Owner

6. You’re Too Friendly

“As a leader, you want to be seen as approachable and friendly to everyone. At the end of the day, people are happier working for a manager or supervisor that they can get along with. However, you still need to act as a leader, and in some situations, you need to “toughen up." It can be difficult to find the balance between being a boss and being a friend, but it is vital for your team to be successful.”

-Jenna Erickson, Marketing Manager

7. You Micro-Manage

“When I first stepped up to a leadership role, I found myself frequently micro-managing my team. This was bad for morale because it stressed me out and made my team feel as if I didn’t trust them. With time, I was able to loosen my grip on the reins and feel confident in my team and its abilities. If you are taking on a leadership role, know that you hired the people you did for a reason. Let them know that you trust them. Be there to help guide them when needed, but don’t stifle them. Micro-managing your team will not enable them to reach their full potential, and it’s quite stressful for you, too!"

-Serena Holmes, Tigris Events President & CEO


Kayla Heisler is an essayist and Pushcart Prize-nominated poet. She is a contributing writer for Color My Bubble. Her work appears in New York's Best Emerging Poets anthology.