7 Pitfalls of Leadership


In years of studying leadership, both in the business world and in ministry, I’ve seen some consistent traps that get in the way of a leader’s success. I’m calling them pitfalls.

Here are 7 pitfalls of leadership:

Pride – When a leader ever feels he or she has all the answers…watch out! Pride comes before the fall. Great leaders remain humble, knowing they didn’t get where they are on their own nor will they stay there without the help of others.

Passiveness – I don’t believe in tyranny, but a leader can equally be too “nice” or overly friendly with a team. Leadership is hard some days…most days. Good leadership isn’t a popularity contest. The leader afraid to challenge will create an environment where mediocrity, chaos, and unhealthy team environment prevails. Leaders should be willing to address known concerns, not be afraid of healthy conflict, and challenge status quo even when it’s not the most popular thing to do.

Isolation – A leader who removes his or herself too much from the actual work being done, isn’t visible to the team, or doesn’t bond well with them team, will never gain significant influence with the team. At every level of leadership, regardless of the size organization, the more a leader can do “hands on” work, even if only occasionally, the more “in touch” the leader will be and the more respected he or she will be by the people being led.

Loneliness – Leadership is naturally lonely. Every leader I know struggles with it at some level. If it’s not addressed, however, especially during extremely high stress periods, the leader will head towards crash and burn territory. Leaders should seek out other leaders, take risks on trusting a few people, and ask for help before it’s too late.

Boredom – Leadership is about going somewhere. When things get routine for too long, the best leaders will get bored. That’s dangerous. Leaders who last for the long haul are always seeking new opportunities for growth and development.

Success – Just as failure can hurt a leader, so can success. If not kept in check, success can lead to complacency. A leader can begin to think it will always be this way and eventually start taking success for granted. Disaster! Great leaders are always cognizant that the success today isn’t guaranteed tomorrow.

Elitism – When a leader becomes “too good” for the people trying to follow…they stop serving a team and start managing people chasing a paycheck. They quit finding willing followers and are only surrounded by employees. Leaders, especially today, have to be authentic, real, and believable…and there are always people on a team who believe they could do a better job than the leader at times. And, the reason they feel that way is because it’s probably true. Teams are developed by mutual respect and appreciation. Great leaders never see themselves better than the people they are trying to lead.

What other pitfalls have you seen in leadership?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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15 thoughts on “7 Pitfalls of Leadership

  1. Groupthink is something that I see as a big pitfall of of church leadership. Leaders who surround themselves with people who think as they do, act as they do, support what they support. Board members for the different "organizations" somehow affiliated with the church are people who provide political support, or are appointed as "favors." Leaders really can be out of touch with what the community needs and how to address those needs…I see churches who have become too "corporate." I work in corporate America…I don't want to worship with corporate America! The American model of business is not one, I believe, we as Christians want to follow. Thank you for this great article.

  2. Love these pitfalls. (Well, actually, I don't love pitfalls. I love the way you characterized them though!)

    Isolation is one that I wouldn't have thought of and yet, once it's on the list, I see how wise its inclusion is. It's not just isolation within the organization, but also outside. In corporate life, you can isolate yourself within your own office (disaster), and you can isolate yourself within your own company. Even the leader who connects with his or her employees can still be isolated if that leader isn't at industry conferences, attending tradeshows, visiting customers and connecting via technology. In fact, that's probably more important than spending time inside. I'm not sure how that translates into the church world, but I'm sure it must.

    Thanks for the insightful post, Ron (as always).

  3. Trust – In interactions with others, leaders begin every relationship by making a split-second choice between trusting them and mistrusting them. When leaders trust, they care about others, confront conflict together, and cooperate to solve problems.

    In mistrust mode, they operate from a win-lose perspective assessing every situation wondering if they are winning or losing. Nothing productive ever comes out of mistrust mode.
    Twitter: Michaelenichols

  4. Ron, I can certainly relate to the pitfall of boredom. Many times my job can get so routine that I get bored with the same thing, day-in and day-out. Leaders should be looking to put their skills by seeking out new opportunities such as volunteering to lead a project.