5 Common Leadership Pitfalls and Mistakes Business Owners Make

Being a sole business owner is stressful. Hiring and managing employees adds to that stress. Questions regarding employees can frequently race through your mind; Will my employees do a good job? How trustworthy are they? Should I watch them on camera while I’m home? Errrghh!

These are just some of the questions that come up when managing employees. Some questions are warranted, others are unfounded.

As a young platoon leader in the army, I made my share of leadership mistakes. What leader hasn’t? But as I progressed in my career in the military and civilian sector, I noticed a trend many new leaders make.

Below are the most common leadership pitfalls leaders and business owners make. If you are guilty of any or all of them, there’s hope. The first step is recognizing the error.

  1. Micromanagement. This comes in a variety of forms but the most common comes when owners delegate tasks out of necessity, not desire. The transferring of responsibility is stressful, as previously mentioned. Owners try to ease the stress from delegating tasks in several negative ways:
    • They constantly check up on employees. Frequent inquiries of “How is it going? Do you know what you’re doing? Will it be done on time? Can I see how you’re doing? Do you need help?” These questions are valid but when done too often, it shows a lack of faith and confidence in the employee’s abilities. This can affect the trust building process that is a crucial for employee productivity.
    • Owners spend too much time explaining every detail of a task . Owners want to ensure everything is done a specific way- usually the way they would do it. In theory this makes sense. But it’s important to give an employee some leeway in the decision-making process so they feel included and empowered. You may be surprised how much ingenuity employees have.
  2. Failing to follow up. Busy business owners often have a lot on their plate. Because of this, it is very easy to forget something- which can come at a cost. For example, if an employee asks for something or tells you about an idea, you may acknowledge it but soon forget. One thing is guaranteed, the employee will not forget. If this happens too often, employees will assume you are incompetent or simply don’t care what they have to say. If you make a promise about something, make sure you do it.
  3. Getting too close to staff. As humans, we are social creatures and are drawn to others. A common leadership mistake is to become too close to your staff. Although you should be friendly to staff, you do not want to become friends. Worse yet, if you become friends with one employee, the rest will assume favoritism exists, regardless of whether it does or not. This is detrimental to a healthy teamwork environment. This is where professionalism is paramount to maintain this delicate separation. Secondly, treating everyone equally personally, professionally, and socially will avoid any perceptions of favoritism.
  4. Performance punishment. In cases where an owner does delegate tasks to employees, they may rely too much on a single employee and ignore the rest. If you have a staff of five people but you count on one far more often than the rest, several negative things can happen. You may overwork the one employee to burnout. Second, you may contribute to a perception of favoritism between you and that employee. Third, other employees won’t have as much of an opportunity to develop professionally. When this happens, the underdeveloped employee may assume a role of an underappreciated employee and relegate himself to doing the least amount of work possible. Is that what you want for your business?
  5. Assuming you must know everything. This is a common mistake new leaders make. By virtue of their position of authority, they feel they must know more then employees. This is rarely the case. Additionally, leaders may feel it is a mistake to admit they don’t know something and therefore, refuse to seek the information from employees. Humility is one of the strongest leadership attributes and to be humble enough to ask for assistance is a sign of strength. Employees appreciate being asked questions because it shows the leader values the employee’s knowledge and experience. Who doesn’t like to be valued?

These are five of the most common leadership pitfalls business owners and leaders make. There are others and if any of this sounds familiar to you, there is still hope.

You can make better decisions that promote trust between you and your employees. Trust is one of the pillars of a great team, but it all starts and ends with you, the leader.

You can read up on the other pitfalls and common mistakes by picking up my book, A Beginner’s Guide to Leadership: A Complete Map to Building and Maintaining High Performing Teams and Organizations by Eddie Molina, available on Amazon.

View my book on Amazon

Lion Leadership Development helps owners grow their business by helping them learn how to properly manage employees to maximize production.