New Leaders Should Avoid These Common Mindset Mistakes

Organizations aren’t investing in developing their leaders, never mind new leaders. When leadership development is present, it often misses the fundamental mindset changes new leaders need to make. When new leaders fail to make a shift in mindset, they continue to work in the business, rather than on the business. If you are new to a leadership role it can take years to become a leader worth following, especially when making these common mistakes. Because leadership is critical to the business and employees, new leaders need to quickly change their mindset.

Perhaps you were a solid individual contributor, or maybe you were an outstanding front-line supervisor. No matter how you earned your promotion to a new leadership role; you want to avoid common mistakes new leaders make. It is not uncommon for new leaders to struggle with changing their mindset in these areas. More often than not, it is because they aren’t trained, coached, or developed to do so. In many ways, they are unspoken rules of leadership and yet so critical to your foundation.

Avoid these common mistakes new leaders make by evolving your mindset in these six areas.


New leaders want to be liked by their team.

To get their team to work hard for them, often new leaders make the mistake of thinking their team has to like them. So they solicit positive attention and approval from their team. Leaders who want their team to like them engage in gossip and try to please everyone by saying yes. However, they often can’t keep their promises of yes, which quickly erodes trust. Leaders looking for positive approval play favorites and shower certain people on their team with positive feedback and compliments.

Instead, new leaders need to earn the respect of their team. To earn respect, they tell the truth, even when it is difficult for the team to accept. They explain their thought process when making difficult decisions. Leaders are respected when they confront the drama in the office. They say no when necessary. Respected leaders hold their team accountable for results and give credit when results are achieved. Even more so, leaders earn respect when they are consistent and fair in carrying out their expectations.

New leaders think they know (or have to know) everything.

New leaders make the mistake of getting comfortable because they now have a title. As if magically overnight, they now know everything. It causes them to think they have to make every decision, and in doing so, they become a micromanager. New leaders make the mistake of feeling they have to be the smartest person in the room by knowing the answer to every question.


Instead, new leaders have more to learn now than ever. Understanding the difference between decisions a leader needs to make, and ones anyone can make, allows you to develop future leaders within your team. Strong leaders know they have more to learn and even more so, that they can learn from their team.

New leaders make the mistake of thinking it’s all about them.

New leaders have a hard time shifting from it being about them. When leaders focus on themselves, they become authoritarian. These leaders offer empty posturing and ultimately deliver poor performance. They assume people will follow them because they are the leader. New leaders make the mistake of believing their measure of success is based on their achievements.

Great leaders know it isn’t about being in charge because of their title. It is about wielding influence that inspires the team to achieve greatness. They focus on others and commit to making their team the best it can be. Great leaders work for the benefit of all and are devoted to their team. As a result, they receive devotion from their team in return. Successful new leaders recognize their performance is based on the sum results of the team, not the individual.


They think what happens when they are around is what’s important.

New leaders make the mistake of thinking that what happens when they are around and “watching” is most important. As a result, these new leaders find being away from the office difficult. They don’t take vacation time and work longer hours. This new leader mistake causes burnout, loss of creativity, and well-being. Furthermore, it demonstrates a lack of trust in their team, which also indicates they aren’t developing them.

Great leaders know that what happens when they are gone is more important than when they are there. They develop their team to know how to do their job, do it well, and do it when no one is watching. Consequently, great leaders know the only way to grow their team into future leaders is to create opportunities for them to step up, and that can only happen when they are not present.

New leaders make the mistake of over-promising by saying yes to everything.

New leaders are eager to please and make the mistake of setting overly ambitious goals. Ultimately, these goals can rarely be delivered and as a result, set them up for failure. Furthermore, leaders who say yes to everything create an unfocused environment because there are too many priorities causing the team to become scattered. Nothing gets done well, and often the wrong things get done first when a new leader is in the “yes” phase.


Great leaders under-promise and over-deliver. They manage their workload and work with their boss toward agreement on priorities. They are aware of their limitations and do their due diligence when setting goals. Great leaders understand the importance of the results they deliver, from small wins to the big ones. Instead of being quick to say “yes,” they say “let me think about how to make that happen.” Doing so will create a reputation for being calm, thoughtful, and dependable.

Finally, for new leaders of leaders, they make the mistake of thinking they have to lead their team’s team.

It can be hard to promote from the front line to a leader. It is especially hard to promote from a front line leader to a leader of leaders. New leaders of leaders make the mistake of continuing to focus on the front line team. It causes the front line team to continue to turn to them for answers, which takes them away from setting strategy and coaching and developing their direct reports. Most noteworthy, they make the mistake of undermining that leader by contradicting directions, confusing the coaching focus, and inconsistent enforcement of policies and procedures.

Great leaders know their job is to lead their direct reports, not two levels down. They lead their leaders so they can lead their team. Great leaders understand when to redirect questions, concerns, and conflict back down the chain. When necessary, they use those situations as coaching lessons for their leaders. Above all, great leaders work to make themselves obsolete by developing their team of leaders to be effective in their own right.


Avoid the common mistakes new leaders make. Leadership isn’t your title, your pay, or your status within an organization. What got you into your new leadership role, won’t get you your next promotion. To be effective as a new leader requires a change in mindset. It won’t happen overnight, but if you are intentional about it and aware of the need for change, you will be farther ahead and more successful than most.

Last updated on July 21st, 2020 at 06:35 am

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Jason Cortel is currently the Director of Global Workforce Management for a leading technology company. He has been in customer service, marketing, and sales services for over 20 years. In addition, he has extensive experience in offshore and nearshore outsourcing. Jason is an avid Star Trek fan and is on a mission to change the universe by helping people develop professionally. He is driven to help managers and leaders lead their teams better. Jason is also a veteran in creating talent and office cultures.

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