How to Avoid the Top Leadership Mistakes Made by CEOs

by / ⠀Career Advice / December 22, 2021
Leadership Mistakes made by ceos man standing in room

Common leadership mistakes, setbacks, and triumphs are some of the most important lessons CEOs learn throughout their careers.

Many leadership mistakes come from blind spots. CEOs and other business leaders will decide whether they grow or stay stagnant by how they respond to these mistakes. 

Avoid These Leadership Mistakes

Here are five leadership mistakes that CEOs make and what you can learn from them.

Being insular.

Leaders can find it easy to draw conclusions and not ask questions. Leaders who believe only in their views and have a set agenda for discussions aren’t open to learning from others. This can be a leadership error, such as when leaders hire only people like them. It’s not as effective as inviting diverse viewpoints to the table. This can also happen when new leaders replicate winning strategies from the past without listening to customers or existing employees. It is why the Socratic method has remained so popular. The best ideas and solutions for business problems are generated by asking questions and collaborating closely.

Unclear in leadership direction. 

Leadership is about setting direction, vision, and expectations for employees and encouraging them to take action. Communication is essential to communicate the mission, vision and purpose, as well as the roles of employees in achieving them. Communication can be both positive and negative. This is a mistake that CEOs make. They listen to their employees with curiosity, empathy, and openness. Also, actions matter. Leaders who diverge from their mission, vision, and purpose are noticed by employees. They stick to their values only when it is convenient, especially in times of uncertainty.

Short-term growth is not the goal. 

Leaders can make this mistake if they are too focused on meeting quarter-to-quarter targets that they lose sight of long-term sustainable growth. While short-term rallies can be very effective, they must not conflict with the company’s long-term strategy. Focusing on the long-term goals shows a commitment to the company’s fundamentals and the design everyone is working towards.


A consistent communication rhythm is essential for CEOs who are successful in communicating with their coworkers about priorities and achievements. Employees feel more empowered and valued when leaders clearly define what they should be focusing on and allow their team to complete the work. It is important to clearly define the goals and the outcomes and trust your team to help you navigate the way. Although it is important to have regular checkpoints to monitor progress, micromanaging can lead to underappreciation and devaluation of people.

Avoid focusing on setbacks beyond CEO control. 

The pandemic was yet another reminder about all the factors outside of our control that can have an impact on our businesses. By focusing on the areas they can influence, CEOs can help set a positive tone for their companies. This common leadership error is avoided by the most successful leaders who focus on the long-term goal to support their customers and coworkers, regardless of any challenges. Effective CEOs are like world-class athletes who avoid making excuses and only focus on what they can control.

Sometimes, like all CEOs, you will look back at decisions and realize that they were wrong later. Experience will teach you “time changes everything.” Don’t learn this lesson the hard way. To avoid making the same leadership mistakes twice and to correct them in a deliberate manner. Leaders can make mistakes that lead to business and personal growth. They must take responsibility for them and take ownership. When CEOs see mistakes as learning opportunities, it can help them shape and improve their leadership skills.

Look ahead

Every CEO eventually learns to let go. Let go of the past. And let go of doubts.

Learning leadership doesn’t come in a day. Or in a neat package. With instructions included. It takes dull stretches of slogging through minutiae. Moments of terror, facing down your doubts. Many meals of humble pie. Acceptance of other’s weaknesses. As well as your own. And then working at correcting them. These things come naturally to some. To others, they are a constant struggle. Where you are at, though, is not as important as the direction you are heading.

Sometimes it’s the simple things that help leaders win. A compliment from a competitor. Helping an employee turn a weakness into a strength. Taking a long lunch break just to walk through the park on a sunny day. Or how about that day when at long last you can’t find a single mistake in you or those around you. When it all comes together as you knew it would. That day will come. If you work for it.

Image credit: Andrea Piacquadio; Pexels

About The Author

Kimberly Zhang

Editor in Chief of Under30CEO. I have a passion for helping educate the next generation of leaders.