When Albert Einstein said “a person who never made a mistake never tried anything new,” he spoke an undenying truth that’s constant across the generations.
People make mistakes.
To progress and fulfil your potential, you must take risks and open yourself up to the possibility of failure. Sometimes these mistakes will be your fault. Sometimes they will be because of those you lead.
No matter, because as a successful leader the onus is on you (always).
To become a successful, strong, and inspiring leader, you will make mistakes; you have to.
Not all mistakes are equal
After interviewing 160+ people for my latest book (where I dove into their greatest mistake ever, and how they transformed this into success), I believe ALL mistakes are valuable to some degree.
At least, you can harvest invaluable lessons from each mistake and failure, so long as you approach them the right way.
Regardless, this doesn’t mean making them is any easier.
Nor does it mean you should seek them out.
The truth is, there are many mistakes you do not have to make, and by learning from other people (people who have already made them), you can save yourself a lot of time, money, and heartache.
For instance, new and inexperienced leaders tend to make these following four mistakes, whereas those who have gained success and respect in their field… not so much.
So if you want to fast-track your leadership skills, DO NOT do the following:
#1: DO NOT play the blame game
Whether you blame yourself or blame other people, this is one of the biggest (and in my opinion, worst) mistake you can make as a leader.
The fact is, things go wrong. You make mistakes. Those you lead make mistakes. Mother nature happens, or the economy collapses. There’s always ‘something’, and there’s always ‘someone’ to blame.
But does blaming anyone (either yourself or someone else) solve the problem?
It may make you feel better. It may massage your ego. It may provide you and your team a scapegoat.
But does it help you turn the situation around, and build success on the back of it?
In my experience, no.
If anything, it locks you in purgatory as you continue to play the blame game, feel like a victim, and wish things were better. Your job as a leader isn’t to wish things were better; it’s to make them better.
So get back to work, and quit placing blame on other people (or worse, yourself).
#2: DO NOT talk “at” the people you lead
Communication is a two-way street. It also happens to be one of the most difficult skills you can master, which is strange, considering you first learned how to communicate at a young age.
As a leader, you need to master communication.
But so long as you talk “at” people, you never will.
You must talk, but you must also listen. You must learn when to talk, and you must appreciate when to listen (not just listen on the surface, but actually ‘listen’ to what the other person is saying).
It’s easy to talk “at” someone. It’s easy to make it about you. It’s easy to preach and push your message, speaking louder and more clear, forcing your words down their throats.
Stop it. This is not what an experienced, successful leader does.
Take Dave Kerpen, for instance, the founder of Likeable Media, and the New York Times bestselling author of ‘The Art of People’.
Although Dave is busy and has a chaotic schedule, he never forgets his role as a leader. His ‘open-door policy’ allows any of his team to pop in and ask questions, share thoughts, or seek advice.
They only have 15-minutes, which Dave insists they adhere to.
But when they enter his office or catch him on the phone, they know Dave will communicate with them (he will listen, as well as talk).
This is what the best leaders in the world do, so if you find yourself always talking, take a step back and stop.
#3: DO NOT hustle for the sake of hustling
As a leader, you have a lot on your plate. You don’t only have your own work, you have to worry about the rest of your team’s workload, too.
It’s easy to lose yourself in the ‘hustle’ and work-work-work.
Sometimes you have to put in an all-nighter or burn both ends of the candle. Around a deadline or an emergency, it’s unavoidable.
But hustling for the sake of hustling… there’s no glory in this.
Kevin Kruse tried to be the exception to this rule, working long, hard, and unfathomable hours. The New York Times Bestselling author of 15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management — and the founder of this very site — Kevin runs a much tighter ship these days.
But not long ago, Kevin worked himself into the ground, overworked and overwhelmed. As the founder of a fast-growing company, he had a lot on his plate. He had a team to lead. He had a team to inspire, grow, and build.
So he did what a lot of inexperienced leaders do, and took on too much. On the surface this may seem like a selfless act: something an inspiring leader does to motivate their troops.
But when you look a little closer, it’s a recipe for disaster.
As a leader, your duty isn’t only to lead your team, but to be your best self at all times. This means you need to look after yourself, be productive, and be full of energy.
Hustling for hustle’s sake does not achieve this.
#4: DO NOT forget about the long-game
As a successful leader, your job isn’t only to focus on today, but build for tomorrow.
This is what sets the best apart from the rest. Whereas the rest of your team focusses on today and the near future, you must also consider what lies ahead.
What does your team look like in the future?
What do your processes consist of?
How, where, and what should you improve further down the line?
If all you do is focus on today, you will miss out on many opportunities. When I spoke to Rameet Chawla for my book (The Successful Mistake), we dove into such long-term thinking.
Rameet heads up one of New York’s fastest growing mobile design agencies, and the reason it’s grown far faster than its competitors is because Rameet is always thinking about tomorrow (as well as today).
He told me about a time he hired a new member of the team, and how it took him over a year to convince him. Rameet knew this person wasn’t ready to leave their other job in the beginning, but he also knew he would be a perfect addition to the team he was building.
So he wined, dined, and inspired this soon-to-be team member over many months, biding his time until the right moment.
So many leaders forget about the long-game. They focus on now, and they lose sight of what comes next.
But as with a game of chess, it’s leaders who know what happens next that enjoy the greatest success.
These are just four mistakes you should not make as a leader. There are many others, and although you will make some of them yourself, I encourage you to learn from others NOW so you can avoid much of the heartache.
If you would like to learn how to do this, I have a guide you may love (grab your free copy here).