Applying Leadership Skills: Common Mistakes


People often try to retain the relationships they enjoyed before taking on a leadership position. Leaders, especially those in supervisory roles, must be careful not to let friendships interfere with good judgment. Be aware, too, that those who know you as a colleague or peer may have a different view of you as a leader.


Mirroring other leaders too closely

People new to leadership roles may try to copy a leader they respect, because the person provides an easy model. This can create a false impression of what you are really like, or, worse, make you look foolish for trying to mimic a style incompatible with your own personality. Leadership behaviours come from within. Understand what it is you respect in the other leader and think about how you can best display that attribute. If it does not work, do not be afraid to try a new approach.


You must work at it

Many people hope that they have natural leadership skills, and accept leadership positions without proper training or mental adjustment. This sink-or-swim approach works sometimes, but not always! Building up leadership skills, increasing awareness of yourself, and developing a positive reputation in the organisation have much more potential for success. It will also give you more room to make mistakes without losing credibility.

Mistaking public speaking for leadership

Commanding an audience is a great skill, and many leaders have it. However, it is not the sole requirement. Leaders also need to be problem-solvers and have originality, flair, confidence, self-knowledge, strong interpersonal skills, vision, good organisational skills, the ability to listen, and so forth. The ability to ‘talk a good fight’ is not enough on its own.

Steps to Success:

  • Recognise that leadership is a skill that we can all acquire, rather than a natural talent reserved for a privileged few.
  • Identify different leadership styles and establish when each one might be appropriate.
  • Find your own natural style of leadership before developing others.
  • Learn as much as you can from all the available resources: courses; textbooks; websites; and more experienced peers or mentors.
  • Look for opportunities to acquire and practise your leadership abilities. Be brave enough to venture into new territory, expand your experience, build confidence, and develop new skills.
  • When presented with a leadership opportunity, take time to analyse the situation, set clear objectives, and pick a good team that is competent, loyal, and energetic.