Great leadership starts by recognizing that you don't have all the answers, all of the time. Founders and CEOs are just as likely to fall into bad habits as anyone else within an organization; unfortunately, when all eyes are on you, it's crucial to recognize your missteps and correct them as soon as possible.

Stay transparent with your employees and welcome their suggestions, even when it comes to your leadership style or strategies. The more open you are, the less likely you'll succumb to these common leadership mistakes that would sink a lesser leader than yourself.

Failing to construct a winning company culture

Culture can and should be built. It doesn't happen on its own. As a leader, it's up to you to set the tone of your company's work environment and to make sure core values are understood and get the buy-in from every member of your team.

Culture is everything from the arrangement of workstations to the dress code to the emphasis placed on innovation, teamwork and play. Even if you've never stepped foot on their campus, you probably have a good idea of what a typical day at Google is like. Not necessarily what they talk about in a technology team meeting, but what the general vibe of the day is - colorful, relaxed, exploratory. That's a testament to culture.

Workplace happiness is more directly tied to intangible, cultural factors than it is to the day-to-day work being done. An employee that feels appreciated will feel five times more motivated to do great work than one who gets a raise, so make recognition a central part of your culture if you're scratching your head on where to start.

Culture can evolve, and the best ones do with every new hire as long as each person is on board. Without a solid foundation, though, you'll always be playing catch-up and trying to fit together puzzle pieces from different boxes.


You're in a leadership position today because you've made a series of good decisions in your career. On any given task, you probably feel like you're the most qualified person to attend to it. That might be true. But great leaders can tell you that their organizations truly took off once they learned how to loosen the reigns smartly and delegate to other team members.

There are two ways to inspire confidence in your employees: listen to their concerns, and let them do their jobs. Micro management puts a wedge of mistrust between you and your employees and spreads you thin. Unhappy workers who cite workplace boredom as a main contributor to their discontent don't necessarily mean they're short on things to do; they might feel as if they're a bad fit because their potentials aren't being tapped. If leadership meddles in their tasks, they'll be relegated to work that feels beneath their expertise.

One simple way to show your team you trust them is to allow individuals to volunteer for certain jobs before you hand them out, even if it's different departments teaming up from time to time. Give all of your teams a breadth of experience so they come to each other's aid when need be, instead of getting you involved.

Not providing an opportunity for outside education

A team can't grow if its individual members all plateau when they step foot within your walls. Today's education system doesn't adequately prepare graduates for what work life is really like, so your new hires risk feeling overwhelmed. Find resources that will supplement their on-the-job training and offer to take care of some of the cost. It will be worth it in the long run.

You should not only encourage employees to stay educated on their industry, the tools they use and their outside interests, but you you should require the same of yourself. Success is a never-ending, always-changing pursuit, and you should get excited by the idea (and the honest truth) that you don't know everything. Make yourself well-rounded; you never know when you'll be inspired to make a personal pivot, start a new venture or incorporate a fresh technique that will take your current business to the next level.

Interview questions that aren't landing the right candidates

If you're experiencing higher than normal turnover, or having trouble implementing or maintaining your culture, you might have been drawing dead to begin with due to poor interviewing technique. Companies often overvalue a candidate's skill level in relation to other factors such as personality, work ethic and vision, then wonder why no one else in the company can stand working with this person.

Interviews should veer away from discussing in great detail any information that's verifiable on a resume. If you're going to talk about previous work history, steer the conversation into an open-ended discussion on likes and dislikes, not tasks completed. You already know the people on your staff, and the interview is where you're gauging if this new person would be more likely to help steer the ship or rock the boat.

Your ideal candidates should have a passion for your industry as a whole, not just for the job they're trying to fill. While their values don't necessarily have to align 100% with yours, you should at least get a sense of how they can complement the culture you've already established. And don't be afraid to go off-script and talk about outside interests - you're hiring well-rounded human beings, so don't make them feel like they'll turn into work robots.

Published on: Jan 25, 2017
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