Persistence, Over-Reflection, and Other Leadership Blunders

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Mistake #1: Not learning from mistakes.

My biggest mistake was not learning quickly from mistakes. I chose persistence over reflection.


  1. Reflect on relationships. Move quickly toward failing relationships to see if they might be strengthened.
  2. Protect people from themselves. Success gives leaders permission to ignore or make excuses for their frailties.
  3. Strengths have fatal flaws. Suppose you’re a talented organizer, for example. Too much organization is stagnation.
  4. Ask yourself, “What if I’m wrong,” when you think others are wrong. Boldness without openness is stubbornness.

Mistake #2: Not learning from success.

Success teaches you what to repeat, just be sure you’re repeating the right things.

  1. Breakthroughs happen when you change something. But, after a breakthrough, you mistakenly think that doing the same thing over and over will result in more breakthroughs.
  2. Others are contributing more to your success than you’d like to believe.
  3. How much of your success is about good fortune? You were in the right place at the right time, for example.
  4. What does joy caused by success tell you about yourself?

Mistake #3: Focusing on problems more than solutions.

The danger of problems is their ability to capture our attention. Lousy leaders solve problems. Successful leaders pursue solutions.


  1. Problems are useful when they help you clarify what you want. “Don’t-want” leadership de-energizes.
  2. You’ve already lost when you forget why you’re hacking away in the weeds.
  3. Keep asking, “What do I want?”
  4. Point to the big picture, when teams get lost in the weeds.

Mistake #4: Allowing someone’s inabilities to overshadow their abilities.

Leaders unleash the inner genius in others. (Inspired by Liz Wiseman.)


  1. Weaknesses have corresponding strengths. Tolerance is essential, if you want to leverage someone else’s strengths.
  2. The thing that drives you crazy about someone may be their genius.
  3. It’s desirable for others to be different from you.

What are some big leadership blunders?

What have you learned from mistakes?