10 Mistakes I have seen managers/leaders make – Through My Own Eyes

28 Oct

I have been employed for the past 12 years working with several global corporations on at least 4 of 6 continents on earth and have been exposed to a vast range of management styles. However in November, 2011 I joined a large global British corporation and was exposed to some of the worst management styles in my work carrier. During these two years, I have worked under 4 managers so far and who have made some clear mistakes to me that have cost 3 of them their jobs. The 4th one almost lost his job immediately a few months back. Unfortunately, all our bosses have been making the same mistakes and non of them has taken off time to ask the team members what exactly cause the previous person’s departure. They instead consult fellow ‘bosses’ who exactly do not know what happens on ground.

During this time, instead of cursing the bad bosses I have had; I have decided to take off time to note these mistakes so that when I become a boss some day I don’t make the same mistakes as they do. Below is the list of these mistakes and my justifications of why I think they really matter:


  1. Getting bogged down in meetings and not doing any hands on work. A person only gets better at hands-on work when they actually do it. In my opinion it is OK for the boss to spend most of his time in meetings and making decisions however this shouldn’t be at the compromise your hands-on skills. It gets hard to supervise your subordinates when they know much more than you do as the boss. There have been times when I have questioned what my boss says about a specific technique and I have approached him personally and he also is very unsure of why he had suggested us to use a specific study methodology yet clear it is does not apply to this particular setting.

  2. Passing on your work on your subordinates so that you can effectively “supervise” them. I have seen this cost one of my previous managers his job. He kept on passing on some of his work to one of the team members and before he knew it; the organization was asking itself if we still really need him since one of his subordinates can actually do all the boss could do. At the end of it, the boss was fired.

  3. Using fear to get work done instead of inspiration. One of the commonest lines I have heard from one of the bosses is “I will give you a warning letter” each time one of us as members of the team has missed some of his deadlines. This does not only cause panic but also slows down the speed at which they get work done. Surprisingly even when work gets done in time, there is no thank you or anything done to motivate the person who has done the great work.

  4. Publically assaulting your subordinates when they do something wrong. This has been the most disturbing mistake I have seen managers here at my work place make over and over again. I have always thought it is common sense that when someone has made a mistake you do not scream at them in public, you call them out and take over it in private and look for ways in which it can be solved. Unfortunately, almost all my managers have been making this same mistake. 

  5. Reporting your subordinates to your boss not knowing that it is part of your job to develop your subordinates capacity to perform and become better employees. This to me is also a very common mistake. Time after time I have seen these people running to HR/or even the country director to report some of the team members that they are not performing well. I believe as a manager, the proper thing to do is would be to sit down with your team member and talk over how they can perform better instead of just rushing to report them so they can be fired. I believe part of the managers’ job is mentor team members and help them perform better.

  6. Competing with your subordinates when they are high performers. I experienced this a few months a go when my boss’ boss joined the corporation and they would compete with each other on who should do what and unfortunately the one lower in rank was a more competent than the boss. This only leads to rubbing of shoulders and hatred between team mates. My own thinking is that in such a situation the boss should look for all possible of working in harmony with the high performing member of the team. Unfortunately instead of finding a solution to this, most bosses do exactly what my boss did i.e. get rid of the high performing members of the team so that you can remain comfortable in your sit. I think that is lazy thinking and poor management.

  7. Refusing to ask your subordinates for help when necessary because you want to appear the boss. I have also seen these bosses suffer with some tasks (especially when they are new to the organization) and sturbonly refusing to come and ask for help from their subordinates all because they want to prove themselves as the bosses. Now, this has not only affect their performance (since they are in most cases  still on probation) but also affects the whole organization and leads to delays in decision making because someone does not want to consult people who have been at the organization longer than them. Some have been smart enough to consult but they do not take the advice they are given and in the end they ended up appearing as poor performers.

  8. Delegating tasks you have failed to do as a manager to your subordinates and putting stringent deadlines for them to finish them on time and yet you could not finish them off yourself. I saw this happen a month ago when the manager failed to analyse data on a study he had personally conducted and then he passed on to one of our team members and kept threatening him with warning letters because he failed to finish it within a day’s time and yet he had done the task for over a week and had failed to complete it. I kept wondering to myself how do you failed to complete the task you started off with and then expect your subordinate to complete it in record time and yet actually according to the pay-check your the expert here. I think this is a really bad way of passing on your failures to your team members because the manager should always appear good.

  9. Failing to take the blame for mistakes made by some of your team members and instead to reporting them and yet you are supposed to review some of the work. One time I was asked to compile a report at work and forward it to my boss to review it. I received the report on Friday evening; shared it with my boss by Saturday for review and then get it back to me to make the edits before it can be presented on Monday. Now the report was not sent back to me for review and when it was presented on Monday and there were queries to it; I was blamed for the faults. Now what confuses about this specific point is that the managers job was simple i.e. review my work and let me know the edits needed, now since he did not review it then we should both take the blame and not just me.

  10. Taking the ALL the credit for the work done by your subordinates. I have seen this happen over and over when a manager fails to offer some of the credit to the members. Often times after presenting the teams work. I believe when subordinates hear such that the boss is taking on the credit it de motivates them. I remember the team stood up to one of the past bosses for this act and it is part of the reasons why he was fired.

With the situation not getting any better at my work place, I decided I will not just complain about these but I have decided to learn from them so that I can be a better manager when I step in those shoes.

Additionally I also feel the main reason we have such mistakes being made is because when people get into managerial positions they never take off time to study more on leadership. They think because one is technically competent at the time of recruitment then they are also good in leadership. I believe even before one becomes a manager they should read and study leadership. Most of these require basic reasoning to be solved and I believe one who has studied leadership should be able to manage any team because leadership is not about position it is an attitude. I also believe managers should once in a while get hands on just to know the hussle team members go through and also info their review process as they review their subordinates work. 


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