How to Avoid the 4 Most Common Mistakes a New Leader Makes

leadership management Mar 28, 2019

It is not always a smooth transition from being in a technical or expert position to becoming a first timer in leading a team(s). Some people would say (including me) it is one of the most terrifying steps in one's career, especially when there has not been a proper transition process set in place or no additional training provided.

More often than not, people are assigned to positions of leadership without the proper tools, training and/or a clear path to transition into the new role. This may create anxiety, uncertainty, and doubt in their ability to succeed. Well, it did for me when for the first time I was put in a leadership role. Fortunately, my boss at that time believed in me more than I actually believed in myself.

Here are some of the fears or doubts I faced during that situation:

  • Do I have what it takes to lead a team?
  • Would I be able to gain respect from them?
  • Would I be able to meet expectations?
  • Would they support my goals and expectations?

It took me some time to get over these fears and start believing in my abilities as a leader. After many trials and errors, some failed attempts, and some much-needed training, I learned some key things that made my transition a little smoother. These things have been reinforced through my years as a business consultant partnering with business owners and leaders in their role to lead, motivate, and empower teams.

This is a short list of the most common mistakes I've seen new leaders make:

  1. Not setting clear expectations and goals
  2. Assuming you need to have all the answers
  3. Balancing between Micro vs Macro managing
  4. Not establishing the position from the start


  1. Not setting clear expectations and goals

This is a big one and it is not necessarily easy to establish clear expectations and goals from the beginning. Especially considering most of the transitions or the bumps to leadership roles do not happen gradually. One day you do your things, go by your normal tasks and objectives and then suddenly your boss wants you to be the best leader the company has ever seen starting from tomorrow. This may be a little bit to the extreme (maybe not) but I have rarely seen a proper transition process established by the company to groom talent into leadership positions. Most of the time you are expected to show up with your newly given title and deliver results immediately. That was me, I accepted the role without asking questions, I thought I had everything I needed to meet expectations and lead a team of 18 new souls through the finish line. Well, I failed on my first attempt.

I quickly realized I hadn't stopped for a minute to ask what was expected from me as a leader and what was the measurable outcome for this new position I had so eagerly accepted. I didn't have a complete operating manual to steer the boat in any direction.

Getting an opportunity to be in a leadership role is an amazing accomplishment and honor so take full responsibility for your role. Stop for a minute and ask all the questions that are needed to get a clear understanding of the expectations and goals for the position before you embark on this journey. Once understood, then it is your role to share those same expectations and goals with your team, provide the tools necessary for their success, and partner with them to take action and create long-lasting results.


  1. Assuming you need to have all the answers

It is easy to confuse having the expertise to perform a specific job to assuming we can influence and lead a high performing team. When you get appointed to a leadership role you may feel that your career experience and expertise may be the only thing needed to succeed in the new role. You may also believe you need to have all the answers.

No, you don't need to have all the answers and it should not be anyone's expectation that you do. Always come from a place of curiosity into the new role and learn as much as needed, ask for tools, ask questions, seek guidance, and request some management training to set up a foundation for success.


  1. Balancing between Micro vs Macro-Managing

This is probably one of the toughest and more challenging tasks we have as leaders, especially for the new ones. The simple act of having to balance the approach on any given situation may cause some anxiety and doubt. These are some of the things that went through my mind as I was now sitting in a closed office with a different job title:

Should I get involved with every task? Or should I let the team figure things out on their own and wait until they ask for help? 

Should I intercept if the boat is veering out of the course or wait until it hits the iceberg to regroup and reassess the lesson?

Should I give clear direction and expectations and then sit back in my office waiting for results? Or should I roll up my sleeves and partner with my team members to get things done?

Should I check back with them daily or wait until the end of the week?

All of these questions were playing in my head for a few months into my first leadership role. It took a great deal of self-discipline, improving my listening and communication skills, and letting go of the outcome to find a mix that worked for me and it may work for you as well. I quickly realized that I was getting more work and not less, as most of us assume before we get the promotion.

I ended up creating my leadership style with a mix of coaching, strategic, and transformational approaches. What I mean is that I was relentless in providing very clear objectives and expectations, provided and facilitated the tools and training needed for the job, had no issues with getting down and dirty with the team, checked in only as needed or as designed by the project milestone, and always stepped back to celebrate their accomplishments.

A leader will define the goals, set the vision, and inspire the team to get the desired results. Strike to find a good mix between creating the space for them to complete the tasks and checking in as needed to provide guidance and support. Lead by example but don't lose sight of the goal and the final destination.


  1. Not establishing the position from the start

I've seen a couple of mistakes when it comes to understanding the position of the newly given leadership role. Through the years, I've seen new managers either create an immediate separation between themselves and the team or continue to work with the team as if nothing had changed. Either extreme may cause some difficulty in our effort to lead, motivate, and obtain results from a team.

If you create complete separation people may get disengaged and not inspired to get the work done. On the flip side, if you continue to be too friendly it may impact your judgment and your decision-making abilities.

It is not always easy to transition from team member/colleague to manager or leader, but just remember that it is now your responsibility to motivate, empower, support, and ultimately lead your team. You don't need to change who you are but you may need to shift the way you communicate and interact with your team.

Would love to hear your thoughts on this. Send me a note at [email protected]

To your success,


Stay connected with news and updates!

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.
Don't worry, your information will not be shared.


50% Complete

Stay connected with news and updates!