3 Mistakes All Successful Leaders Know to Avoid

From unethical behavior to not being transparent, these are the behaviors to stay away from.
3 Mistakes All Successful Leaders Know to Avoid
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Guest Writer
Founder and CEO, KnowBe4
4 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

There’s no such thing as a natural-born leader. It’s true that some extremely talented, highly intelligent people are predisposed to lead ― meaning that their natural skills are well-suited for the rigors and trials of leadership.

But no one is capable of leading without first gaining experience, cultivating knowledge and reflecting upon meaningful lessons. In this sense, alleged natural-born leaders are either modest, lying or, as you’ll often find, unable to lead at all.

And whether you’re a new leader, a veteran leader or even a future leader, you owe it to yourself to read on and learn about three mistakes that all successful leaders know to avoid.

Behaving unethically — the higher your position in the organization, the worse the impact will be

From outwardly insignificant shortcuts to questionable deals, leaders simply cannot afford to behave unethically. That’s because the most important part of your job as a leader is setting the example for each of your team members so they, too, strive for success and relentlessly pursue greatness. It’s been said that employees’ habits and effectiveness are little more than a reflection of their bosses' habits and effectiveness.

By this standard, any and all instances of misconduct serve to damage entire operations, because at a minimum they jeopardize the overall mood of the work environment and suggest that such behavior will go unpunished among staff. At a maximum, they can result in the entire company going under and countless jobs lost. The higher your position in the organization, the further-reaching and more devastating the impact of unethical practices will be.

Related: A Proactive Approach to Addressing Unethical Behavior in the Workplace

Treating your employees like mushrooms — i.e., to treat them like dirt and keep them in the dark

Your employees aren’t mushrooms. Too many otherwise adept leaders have learned the hard way that you can’t treat people like dirt, keep them in the dark and expect them to perform optimally. This expectation contradicts both common logic and human nature.

Those who give you their best effort take pride in what they do and desire to be part of something larger. When you deny that desire by deeming them mere workers, you inhibit morale and limit abilities. You want your employees to try for ambitious goals — it’s one of the most rewarding elements of contemporary business. But treating them like mushrooms isn’t going to help them do that, and it’s not going to help you, either.

Be frank, firm, even-tempered and honest, and make a point of addressing your employees as equals. The results might surprise you.

Related: Stop Treating Your Employees Like Mushrooms

Concealing information from your team or being less than forthright

Behind every tremendous leader is a tremendous team, and tremendous teams are virtually always informed teams. Leaders who withhold information, obscure facts or otherwise fail to paint a complete picture for their employees put themselves at an automatic disadvantage. Occasional discretion is important, but if you want to establish meaningful professional relationships with team members, you must keep them in the know.

Concealing (or failing to disclose) information will compromise your employees’ trust. And if your employees can’t trust you, it’s safe to say that they won’t go above and beyond for you. Trust is intangible and invaluable, and it, more than anything else, is the ink that allows leaders and companies to leave their marks upon the history books.

Excellent leadership isn’t a talent or a gift; it’s a series of balanced decisions and steps with improvement in mind. Wherever you are on your career journey, and wherever you intend to go, it’s imperative that you constantly learn and adapt. Only then will you be able to lead in every sense.

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