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11 leadership mistakes to avoid as a new manager

Becoming a manager is no doubt a career breakthrough, but it often comes at a cost of higher accountability and more responsibility. Mistakes new managers make can lead to a bad reputation, disengaged employees, high employee turnover, and slow but sure downfall of the organization.  

Leadership commands more responsibility and liability towards a bigger opportunity and puts you in direct charge of people. Managerial mistakes often happen without deliberate intention or knowledge. Therefore, the utmost priority of a newbie manager must be to learn from the biggest leadership mistakes ever made and avoid them at all costs.

Good management is the art of making problems so interesting and their solutions so constructive that everyone wants to get to work and deal with them.  -Paul Hawken
The key to successful leadership is influence, not authority. -Kenneth H. Blanchard 

Mistake #1 Living the title, not the role  

Attaining the role of a manager or a leader is so fascinating that it prompts many new managers to settle down and live in their achievements rather than prepare for another journey. It is one of the most common leadership mistakes that you must avoid. This jeopardizes their career and reputation. 

The role of a manager involves planning, organizing, leading, and controlling people, assets, and the organization positively. An effective leader must take pride in the unique responsibilities assigned to him as a manager. 

A newbie manager must  become proficient at;

  • Communication and collaboration
  • Building interpersonal relationships
  • Leadership and mentoring
  • Project management
  • Critical thinking

Mistake #2 Micromanaging instead of trusting your team 

A boss who micromanages is like a coach who wants to get in the game. Leaders guide and support and then sit back to cheer from the sidelines. -Simon Sinek

Micromanagement is an old school style that lets the manager closely observe the activities of a person rather than a process. A micromanager always wants to control the people around him.

A survey by Trinity Solutions, stated in Harry Chamber’s book “My Way or the Highway”, found that 79% people said they experienced micromanagement at work, 69% of them said they considered leaving their job because of it whereas 36% actually changed their jobs.

What's more alarming is that 85% survey participants said that micromanagement negatively impacted their morale.

This leadership mistake has several harmful impact in the organization leading to — 

  • Loss of trust and relationship with teammates
  • High employee turnover
  • Dependant staff
  • Losing focus on the big picture 
  • Low confidence and fear of judgement
  • Less innovation and employee engagement

Mistake #3 Being too friendly or not bonding with the team  

It is a managerial mistake to be too friendly with employees or not at all bonding with them. Being a leader requires having a perfect balance of freedom, friendliness, personal boundary, and emotional connection with the employees. Being too friendly as a leader may lead to employees ignoring tasks or asking for undue favors. While not bonding at all with the team alienates the leader from the team pulse. 

Great things in business are never done by one person. They’re done by a team of people.  -Steve Jobs

Socialize with your employees often to win their trust. Motivate them and inspire them. As a manager, you may often need to take a tough decision against issues that arise often. And you must be cautious as a new manager not to act against the people but against the real issue.   

Mistake #4 Reluctance to giving and receiving feedback

“All leaders make mistakes. They are part of life. Successful leaders recognize their errors, learn from them, and work to correct their faults”.  -John C. Maxwell

Managers are the focal points of organizations that employees look up to. They appreciate working in a company where a manager gives feedback and takes feedback. Often managers seem to take credit for any success and push down the blame to the lower level. Effective managers must take responsibility at both ends. They know that feedback is not a personal attack, instead a tool for self-awareness and growth.

On the other hand, new managers often tend to avoid giving feedback because they — 

  • Find it uncomfortable and distressing
  • Do not know how to do it properly
  • Consider it as challenging and demotivating
  • Unable to handle the pressure
  • Do not organize and find time

Sometimes, new managers end up criticizing team members instead of providing honest feedback. As a new manager, remember that often it’s not what you say but how you say it creates a larger impact.

Mistake #5 Not delegating tasks and activities  

“The productivity of work is not the responsibility of the worker, but the manager.”  -Peter Drucker

Not delegating tasks is one of the most common mistakes new managers make. While as a new manager it is common to think that no one else can complete vital jobs perfectly, it hinders organizational and team growth, and increases project completion time.

Great leaders know that no one is indispensable and believe in the abilities of their people. 

The first rule of management is delegation. Don’t try and do everything yourself because you can’t.” -Anthea Turner

As a manager, remember that your job is to build a great high-performance team and a motivated workforce who knows what to do, when to do, and how to do it. 

Mistake #6 Not ‘leading’ people 

All managers are not leaders. Though management and leadership are interlinked, there are considerable differences in both. 

A leader motivates the team and gets the work done. The credit goes to the team. Whereas a manager tries to control and micromanage their team to get the work done. 

“The manager administers; The leader innovates.” -Warren G. Bennis

As a new manager, avoid the critical mistake of bossing people around. Instead be a coach and mentor them. Inspire people instead of inducing fear in them. Develop your team members and contribute to their growth, instead of  shutting them down.

Mistake #7 Not setting clear objectives or a specific vision 

Visions are crucial for team engagement and performance. 

Employees perform better when they know how their work fits into the bigger picture. It makes them feel that their job is important to the overall business.

There’s no better intrinsic motivation than meaningful work. Setting clear, measurable OKRs is the first step toward ensuring that employees know what’s expected of them. But as a new manager, don’t just assign tasks, give your employees a purpose to work on.  

Mistake #8 Having a people-pleasing attitude

Sometimes being a leader will require you to take a stand, make hard decisions, and have difficult conversations. Which means sometimes you will be seen as the ‘tough one’.

Especially in a remote work environment with minimal face-to-face interaction, it’s easier to adopt an “yes man” tendency to avoid disagreement. But it’s important to remember that not all disagreement is a conflict.

Having a ‘too nice’ attitude will get you approval, but it will eventually lead to distrust. Because ultimately people prefer honesty and consistency over niceness. 

Mistake #9 Misunderstanding motivation 

The two types of motivation are intrinsic and extrinsic. Understanding motivation only in terms of monetary benefits and ignoring the emotional aspect of a role is a mistake first-time leaders often overlook. 

“An employee’s motivation is the direct result of the sum of interactions with his or her manager.” -Bob Nelson

As a leader, it is your job to understand what truly motivates your people; what are their challenges and aspirations, and support them through all. Recognizing the efforts of your team members and appreciating them publicly can go a long way

Mistake #10 Not being available or accessible to the team

Employees look up to their managers for immediate support and guidance. Managers should not walk away after assigning someone with a duty. As a leader you must ensure that they have the resource, training, and assistant they need to get the job done effectively. If you lead them from the front, employees will do their best. 

On the other hand, employees should not feel disconnected from their managers. They must feel free to approach their leaders as and when needed without any fear. 

“A recent management study revealed that 46% of employees leaving a company do so because they feel underappreciated; 61% said their bosses don’t place much importance on them as people, and 88% said they do not receive acknowledgement for the work they do.” -Jack Canfield. 

Mistake #11 Managing conflicts the wrong way

Conflicts when managed constructively, can be the key to creativity and growth. Yet, in workplaces, conflicts are seen in a bad light.

New managers often try to handle conflict in an amateur or biased way. An adamant and stubborn manager may dominate and focus on winning his sides during a conflict, instead of solving the problem and finding a win-win situation for all parties involved.   

Here are a few ways you can eliminate the tension of undue conflicts —

  • See disagreements as opportunities to know your teammates well.
  • Be transparent and communicate with the employees and senior leadership clearly.
  • Plan, organize, and prioritize in advance to avoid unnecessary work-related issues.
  • Ask for help if needed from the employees or the senior leadership and adapt to your working environment. 
  • Regular 1:1s and keeping a track of employee pulse are great to predict early signs of conflicts and resolve before they escalate.

Final Thoughts

“Be a leader with a ladder, not a manager with an order.” – Debasish Mridha, Author

Some managers inspire people whereas other managers hold people accountable. A good manager helps others to perform well. A bad manager micromanages and induces fear. Being a new manager is no doubt challenging but with awareness, empathy, and humility you can become the leader you team members aspire to be.

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