Becoming a leader is like a journey, to get to your destination you need to pull together and put to use necessary resources (the right human capital, the right attitude, skills etc) that will not only make your journey less stressful but help you reach your desired destination.

Level of Leadership

Mike Krzyzewski said leadership is an ever-evolving position, by implication we have to grow ou.r leadership daily. In growing our leadership mistakes are allowed, but if you must make any mistakes here are 7 deadly leadership sins to run away from.

1. Pride and arrogance

In his book How the Mighty Fall Jim Collins identifies pride as the first step towards failure. We all know the saying that pride goes before a fall. But what will pride mean in everyday leadership exercise? Resisting change, playing the only intelligent person in the room, failure to listen, being arrogant to teammates, looking down on others, talking down on others constantly using the ‘I’ language, never saying thank you.

John C Maxwell states that there are two kind of pride- good and bad pride. Good pride he says represents our dignity and self respect. Bad pride to him is a deadly sin of superiority that reeks conceit and arrogance.

In one of his reflections on Leadership Steve Proctor states that the negative face of pride is an exaggerated sense of personal value, status, or accomplishments. He proposes a number of solutions which are – embrace humility as part of your leadership style. (C.S Lewis – Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less). Genuinely appreciate others, take action if you see any signs of pride, and talk about the negative effects of pride constantly.

2. Failing to listen

‘I remind myself every morning nothing I say his day will teach me anything So if I’m going to learn, I must do it by listening’. Larry King. Listening gives leaders, the opportunity to tap into and enrich themselves with knowledge from their team. Followers feel valued and relevant when listened to. Listening in itself is a motivating factor for the one being listened to.

Additionally, listening to one’s followers builds trust. – Brain Tracy once said: Listening builds trust the foundation of all relationships. But leaders must do more than listen, they must listen to understand rather than listening to respond. Good leaders are attentive to small issues. They also pay close attention to what isn’t said. While gaining more authority distances some leaders from the art of listening to those who work of them not listening can cause problems to escalate. People want to be listened to respected and understood . In an online article of May 25 2016, Melissa Daimler writes3 ‘Listening can be a challenging skill to master, researchers found in 1957 that listeners only remembered half of what they had heard immediately after someone finished talking and till date much has not changed. Elaborating on the 3 levels of listening she considers the 360-listening level as the place where the magic happens. Here you are not only listening to what the person is saying but how they are saying it. To improve your listening, she suggests the following; eye contact (this should vary from culture to culture. In Cameroon eye contact may be disrespectful depending on who is before you.) Avoid overbooking your day, and asking questions in the course of a conversation. ‘A deaf ear is the first symptom of a closed mind, and having a closed mind is a sure-fire way to hurt your leadership.’ John Maxwell.

3. Failing to Delegate

Imagine a scenario where a leader has all work files of the company on his desk, yet can’t stop whining about how much work there is to be done. Imagine for another second that he suddenly breaks down owing to too much work. What happens to activities of the company or organization? they sure can’t wait till he is back on his feet. That is how deadly failing to delegate can be! Ronald Reagan said ‘The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.’

But what does it mean to delegate? Delegation is the on-going process by which a leader assigns additional tasks (responsibilities and authority) to a subordinate in such a way that there is acceptance of responsibility for the assigned tasks.

Many in leadership positions still struggle with delegating. Cameron L. Morrissey talks of 1 step ahead in delegating and 3 steps backwards in Micro Management, to describe the challenge to delegate. Generally, leaders feel doing the work themselves saves time, the subordinate may not do it well enough.

On the contrary delegating work can really be beneficial – it eases work pressure, gives the leader time to address the main responsibilities and self-development. The subordinates also benefit as they have an increased opportunity to learn, innovate and challenge their interest you never may know how much your human capital can do if you fail to trust them with responsibility and authority.

For a proper delegation here are a few ways to go about it: Match task with the right person, communicate the importance of the task and what is in there for the person responsible, don’t abandon the task – supervise.5 Robert Half said ‘Delegating work works provided the one delegating works, too.

4. Trying to Please Everybody

I cannot give you the formula for success, but I can give you the formula for failure, which is: Try to please everybody – Herbert Swope.

Being a leader is a hard task, it involves making plenty of decisions too. Sometimes you have to make tough decisions, decisions that cannot satisfy everyone. Whether you make a good or bad decision there will always be people who do not agree with you. Trying to please everyone is a very deadly move in leadership, it prevents you from sticking to your goals or the vision of the organization. As a leader you can end up drained, confused and have your priorities misplaced. A more complicated scenario comes up with a set of people on your team who NEVER agree with any decision you make. (Naysayers) When you make a decision they don’t agree, when you ask for their opinion, they don’t have any when you ask for a vote of opinions, they are neutral. To address this sin of leadership it is important to focus on your goals and the vision of the organization. Additionally, as a leader, you have to accept the fact that everyone will not agree with you and look out for the positive in some disagreements. Leadership Author and speaker Cameron L. Morrissey advice leaders to invest in making good decisions and over time everything will become easier. Jack Welch on his part talks about the 20-70-10 rule: This constitutes differentiating your staff, followers or team -mates to 3 categories the top 20, middle 70 and bottom 10. The bottom ten who fall in the category of the trouble makers in the company should be taken off the group or given less attention, while the focus should be on the top 20 who do 80 percent of the work.

5. Failing to communicate

. Great communication skills and a consistent communication culture is very important in leadership. Keeping people in the dark or muzzling voices can lead to rumours, backbiting, misinformation, lower productivity, no motivation, the creation of fractions and eventually negative conflict.

From the moment one takes on exercising leadership, they have to communicate and share information. Communicate organizational values, vision and mission, communicate task to be done, create a feedback mechanism, communicate by relating with your team internally and externally using even body language. A new research by authors shows, silencing does not smooth things over or make people more productive. It merely pushes differences beneath the surface and can set in motion powerfully destructive forces.

In the present social media age failing to communicate and regularly can pose a great danger even to the well being of the state. It can instill fear uncertainty doubt and lower productivity. Sometime in 2016 everyday teammates, it was rumoured that Boko Haram terrorists who had been causing great harm in the North of Cameroon were in the Capital City living amongst Cameroonians. This instilled a lot of fear in the citizens. People were afraid to step out, there were so many versions of the story and fear kept mounting Then suddenly on mainstream media, some official campaigns came up encouraging people to get to know their neighbours. It made quiet a difference!! If you must succeed as a leader NEVER leave information sharing to chance!

6. Taking all the credit for accomplishments

. We have heard some leaders use the ‘I’ word far too often than the ‘We’ word, especially when it comes to taking credit. Such a practice of excluding others from the fun part when it comes to celebrating the team’s success is a deadly leadership sin. “No man will make a great leader who wants to do it all himself, or to get all the credit for doing it.” –Andrew Carnegie

The leader must recognize the efforts of teammates and recognize them publicly. As a leader, you are in front leading the team, but without the team achieving organizational goals will be impossible. On the contrary when it comes to taking responsibility everyday the leader should be at the front.

7. Failing to Resource Self

There is a common saying that you cannot give what you don’t have! It all begins with you! John Maxwell was asked at a conference; what has been your greatest challenge as a leader and he answered ‘Leading me!’. Sometimes we get so overwhelmed with our desire to lead others that we neglect the need to resource ourselves.

Most leaders want to grow their organization or business but growing the leader determines the growth of the people. As long as people are following you they will be able to go only as far as you go. If you are not growing they are not growing.7 As a leader, you have to be a continual learner. ‘Today a reader, tomorrow a leader.’ –Margaret Fuller ,


Maxwell, John C. 26 Critical lessons Every Leader needs. USA: Nelson Books, 2008. Perlow and Williams, on managing people. USA: Harvard Business School Publishing Corporation,2011. Webliography, accessed March 28, 2017, accessed March 27, 2017.,

Compiled by: African Youth Union Commission: Research, Resource, Mobilization and Media/Advocacy Team.

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