5 Common Mistakes Most Leaders Make (And How To Avoid Them) by Deep Patel

Article by Deep Patel as published on Forbes.

Too often, people step into leadership roles before they’re ready. Sometimes it’s by necessity: An organization loses a key member and suddenly needs someone to fill the role—so they promote a junior employee to a leadership position.

 Other times, people seek out positions of leadership on their own. They advocate for opening a new department, or they decide they want to go off and start their own company. There is something to be said for being pushed outside your comfort zone and growing as a result. However, the challenge with true leadership is that it can’t be learned overnight. And the reason is that quality leadership depends on how well the leaders know and lead themselves.

Unfortunately, however, most people are more in love with the idea of being seen as the leader than they are with nurturing leadership qualities. They want to be the boss more than they want to reflect on what they aren’t doing well, and they want people to look up to them more than they want to work hard to serve others better.

Here are five mistakes most leaders make—and how you can avoid making them too.

1. Most Leaders Confuse Control With Delegation

For most people, becoming a leader means getting to tell other people what to do. They see their role as being the person who has an answer to every question. If anything, they want more people asking them how to do things because it proves how much they know. They want assurance that they’re the one who is always right, and that everyone else is reliant upon their knowledge and wisdom.

Real leaders see this as a worst-case scenario and a waste of time. Real leaders would rather spend their time building teams they trust to handle things on their own. They don’t like having to answer every single question that pops up. If they do end up fielding a deluge of questions, they recognize that they haven’t built a strong enough team.

Being a successful leader isn’t about being the one everyone always turns to for everything. It means having the awareness to build teams and surround yourself with other capable people so you can focus on what’s most important. The more control you give up, the better.

2. Most Leaders Care More About The Title Than The Job Requirements

Too many leaders rely on the phrase “I’m the leader, that’s why you should listen to me.” When you have to remind people that you’re in charge, you’ve essentially lost your own authority. Real leaders never have to remind those around them that they’re the captain—because people already trust them.

Unfortunately, most leaders care more about being called the head manager, vice president or CEO than they do about the skills required in order to be an effective leader in the first place. They want their name on the door, their office by the big bay window, their name listed first on the proposal and a big bonus for being in their position.

But these aren’t the qualities of a real leader. A real leader doesn’t care whether their name is on the door. What they care about is the goal at hand, and empowering those around them to do great work. As a result, everyone sees them as the leader.

3. Most Leaders Want To Take Credit For The Wins, And Shift Blame For The Losses

Too often, when the stars align and everything goes according to plan, the leader is there to swoop in and take all the credit. And when things don’t go well and everything falls apart, the leader is the first to point the finger.

Real leaders do the opposite: When things go well, they step aside and make sure each team member feels appreciated for their contribution to the success of the whole. And when things don’t go well, real leaders are the first to admit where they may have gone wrong. They lead by example, and show others how important humility is—in both scenarios.

4. Most Leaders Work Less Than Everyone Else, And Expect More Than Everyone Else

It’s amazing how hungry people are for a leadership role when they’re just a junior employee, and it’s even more amazing how quickly their habits change the moment they find themselves managing other people.

Most aspiring leaders work hard for an opportunity to lead. They build good habits, prove themselves and move into a higher position, but their work ethic can fall apart in an instant once they become a leader. They get their new title, and suddenly they feel like they can work half as hard as everyone else—and at the same time, they expect to be paid more, given more vacation days and treated differently.

Real leaders don’t think this way. In fact, real leaders work even harder the moment they find themselves in a position of leadership.

Real leaders are there to turn on the lights in the morning, and are the last ones out at night. They’re the ones who set the standard and show everyone around them what’s expected—not by what they say, but by the habits they live by on a daily basis. Most leaders get comfortable as soon as they find themselves managing others. Real leaders never get comfortable.

5. Most Leaders Treat Others The Way They Were Treated

There is no real school for leadership. There are no classes in middle school or high school or even college on leadership. Rather, leadership skills are passed down from leader to leader. And most people who step into leadership roles end up treating people the same way they were treated—usually, not very well. Most leaders aren’t aware of how they lead others.

Real leaders, however, reflect often on the ways they were led. They think about which tactics worked to motivate them and which tactics fell short, and then choose how they want to lead those around them based on their own experiences. They don’t just treat people the same way they were treated in a previous environment. They work hard to create their own leadership system, refining it over time to yield the best results and bring out the most in people.

Most leaders fail because they don’t devote time and effort to this sort of reflection process. They just go with their feelings in the moment, instead of always asking themselves how they can lead better.

For real leaders, this process is inherent. It happens every minute of every day. They’re constantly optimizing for a better response in others, as a way to measure how they can be more effective themselves. That’s the sort of leader you should strive to be.