7 Deadly sins of first-time leaders and how to avoid them

We get promoted for our expertise and fired for out lack of leadership. Here are 7 mistakes that rookie leaders make and what we can do to avoid them.

By Gordon Tredgold, Founder and CEO, Leadership Principles

Becoming a leader for the first time is a highlight of our careers. It shows that not only are we an expert at what we do but that we also have the ability to lead. Sadly for many what should be a great moment can become a nightmare as we commit one or more of the seven deadly sins of leadership which can not only undermine our credibility, but can cut short our leadership careers.

These are the seven sins of leadership and what we can do to avoid them.

1 Become too distant

Becoming a leader is a great step in our careers, but many see it not just as a step up, but also as a chance to step away from our teams, to show that we are in charge by creating some distance between our teams and us. While there is a change in the relationship, especially if we were previously part of the team, which shouldn’t make it too dramatic. When we create distance, it can break the connection between ourselves and the team which is never a good thing to do.

2 Be too friendly

It can be scary to be put into a leadership position, it can be a lonely place to be, but we need to make sure that we don’t look to fix this by trying to be too friendly. As a leader, we may have to make tough decisions, and this can become a problem if we become too familiar with some of the team, and I can damage our credibility

3 Think they need to provide all the answers

Leadership is about helping our teams achieve the best results possible; it’s about identifying the best solution and then looking to organise our team most effectively to achieve the results.  Too many leaders think that they need to be the ones who come up with all the answers, that it’s all about them, and that they need to be the hero. 

We need to get the best out of our teams; we need to leverage their expertise, get them to come up with the best possible options to choose from. It could be that we will ultimately decide on which option is best, but it’s not our job to come up with that option.

4 Too hands on

As leaders, we need to let our teams do their job. It’s not our job to do the work for them. Leadership can be a challenging step to make, and it’s not always clear what we need to do, and it can be a comfort to step back down and do some of the work, or get too involved in how the work should be done.

We need to tell our teams what we want and then leave it up to them to figure out how to do it. 

5 Take too much credit

When we are in a new role, we are keen to show that we have been successful, and this can cause us to take too much credit for the work that has been done. This is just part of the insecurity of being in a new role.  We need to have the confidence to give our teams the credit for the work, and rest assured that their success is our success. It can be tough to take reflected glory, but if we look to claim to much of the success for ourselves, it can cause our teams to become demotivated, disenfranchised and look to work elsewhere.

6 Use control rather than influence

Leadership is not about position; it’s about action and influence. We can’t just demand that people do things just because we are the boss, it might work for a short while but it’s not a long-term solution and it certainly won’t build respect within the team. We need to ask people to do things not demand it; they know we are the boss and when we demand it’s like we are rubbing their noses in it. When we lead by example and ask people, it helps to build our influence and gives the team the feeling that they are working with us rather than for us.

7 Micro management

Micro management is the worst thing that new leaders can do. It’s not good for our teams, as no one likes to work with someone constantly looking over their shoulder and asking are we finished yet, and it’s not good for the leader. It shows a lack of confidence in the team and also in our ability to lead.  We need to give our teams the space to show us what they can do, and we can look to offer support when it is needed.

If we can avoid these seven deadly sins of leadership our teams will appreciate it; it will help to increase their engagement and help us to get the best results from our teams.

This article first appeared at Inc.com