Bob's Gutsy Leadership Blog

Three Subtle, Killer Mistakes You May Not Realize You Are Making!

Regularly posting these blogs on the Gutsy Leadership website ( was started years ago to help launch the 3rd book I did entitled “What’s Holding You Back: Ten Bold Steps that Define Gutsy Leaders.” The book focuses on a roadmap of ten steps a leader can follow in generating big impact, and the blogs focus on examples of companies/leaders who have succeeded or failed in their pursuit of such impact and highlight the resulting leadership lessons.  

Stepping back and considering past blogs, there are three negative behaviors that I think are quite subtle and very hard for a leader to recognize they are exhibiting them, but they turn out to be killer mistakes.  They are as follows:

  • Subtle, Killer Mistake #1:  Avoiding Making Decisions – Decisions need to be carefully considered.  But to wait until you think you have every last bit of information usually will cause your organization to fall behind. Also, continually putting off making decisions will frustrate and demotivate employees.   Accept the fact that you, as leader, must make decisions even when you just can’t get all the information you think you need. 
  • Subtle, Killer Mistake #2: Not Listening – Many misunderstandings in daily exchanges can be prevented, if only leaders would take the time to simply pay attention.  Most leaders are active doers.  Many only listen briefly, form their own opinion early on and then mentally check out.  They are engrossed in their own ideas for solving problems and don’t take the time to really understand the problem, the data, and the points of view being presented to them.  When this happens, misunderstandings and wrong decisions are inevitable.  
  • Subtle, Killer Mistake #3: A Conceited View of Yourself – All too often you see managers become impressed with themselves for achieving their role and soon believe that all things would collapse without them. They tend to drag out meetings, lecture to people, hold meetings that aren’t really necessary, and are dreadfully slow in answering email.  Meanwhile, the business flounders!

Over the past year, we have seen some robust examples of both avoiding, and falling into, these traps:

  • Pfizer – The CEO quickly reviewed options and decided on the surprising decision to use the mRNA molecule as the core of the Pfizer vaccine.  While mRMA had never before been used in a vaccine, the experts around him believed in it, and he made the decision to use what turned out to be a hugely successful new approach to vaccines. 
  • Boeing – The Boeing CEO didn’t take the time to listen to the engineers who feared the MCAST system because of software bugs.  They tried to warn the CEO of the potential problems to no avail; those software bugs turned out to lead to tragic accidents.
  • WeWork -The arrogant co-founder/CEO – powered, we now know, by tequila and pot and dreams of trillion-dollar wealth – constantly reminded his employees, and the world in general, how important he was by spending hundreds of millions acquiring hopelessly unprofitable tech companies and regularly preaching that he would lead the world to communal utopia!

Beware…you may be guilty of these killer mistakes and not be able to recognize them!

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