Best Boss Minute | The Top 8 Things a Leader Shouldn’t Do (Part 4)

Today’s Question:

“Thanks for all the recommendations on what leaders SHOULD do. Now, tell us what are the things leaders SHOULD NOT do?”

— Need to Know in Nashville

This was such a great question! We’ve talked about a bunch of things leaders shouldn’t do over the past few weeks — lack of integrity and lack of empathy, micromanagement and poor communication, and inconsistency and lack of vision. Today, we wrap up the conversation with being inflexible and blaming others.


Inflexibility is defined as a leader who is resistant to change or refuses to consider new ideas and approaches that may limit their organization’s growth and innovation. So what can you do to best mitigate that? Three things. 

The first thing is always to be curious. Be curious. Remember we talked about the importance of being a curious anthropologist? It’s the same thing. I want you to continue to nurture that muscle of being curious. Flesh out the pieces. Be careful about your judge getting in the way of people bringing their authentic, rich ideas to you.

Next, practice something called leadership by invitation. A lot of times we think of leadership as pushing things along, moving things along. And leadership is more about pulling, inviting, motivating, and inspiring. So think about how you can practice leadership by invitation – bringing people into the mix as you are exercising your leadership.

And lastly, I want you to be clear on your decision-making with folks. In other words, when you are in the process of making decisions, say to your folks, “Am I going to be arriving at this decision by…” Are we going to be arriving at this by consensus, where everybody has an equal say in the matter? Are we going to be doing this by directive, where I’m going to tell you what’s going on and these are the reasons why? Or am I going to be making that decision by consulting with you, asking for your input and your opinions, but I will hold the bottom line in how that decision is made? 

You can combat this notion of inflexibility by being super clear with your own decision-making process for the particular decision upfront. Make sure to do it upfront.

Blaming Others

Leaders who consistently blame others for problems and mistakes may create a culture of fear and mistrust among their followers. So here are three things you can do to combat that.

The first is, to differentiate between explain and excuse. As you or other folks are blaming or putting the responsibility on folks, make sure that you’re clear about whether you are explaining the situation or you’re excusing the situation. Oftentimes when I’m working with clients, I ask them, “Are you explaining or excusing?” And it really moves the onus of blame, of the responsibility, away from others and more on ourselves. I’m explaining, right? I’m not excusing my bad behavior, but I am explaining it. So see if you can get into that mode of explaining versus excusing, and asking others to do the same.

The second thing is, I want you to be aware of the community of complaint phenomenon. We’ve talked about that before, but just in case you missed it, it’s the idea that people come together in a community, and oftentimes they do that around complaints. We see that a lot in workplaces. So you want to nip that in the bud as best you can. And if you’re curious about how to do that, make sure you reach out to me, and we can talk about strategies. But that is definitely one of the things that happen in organizations and workplaces that really supports the idea of blaming others, is that comfort level we have in complaining with each other about situations and about people. So beware of the community of complaints.

And then lastly, I want to stress this notion of self-accountability. We often talk about accountability as I am accountable to you. What we want to do is reframe that and say, “How can I support you to be accountable to yourself?” Leaders who refuse to take responsibility for their mistakes or who fail to hold themselves accountable to their team members can create a culture of blame and finger-pointing. So we want to nurture for ourselves and for our teams, for our organizations, for our people, the notion of self-accountability. What is it that you are committing to and how can I best support you in holding yourself accountable? That will really help in moving away from blaming others and just holding accountability as a yoke that we all carry.

And that’s a wrap of our conversation about what leaders should not do.

If you have any questions or need advice about leadership and management, support, tools, or insights, please send an email. Dear Danny would love to hear from you!

About Danny

With over 20 years experience in training and leadership development  — and holding an MBA and an MA in Organizational Development — Danny Ceballos has worked with organizations across the country to strengthen their effectiveness in leading and managing others through supervision+motivation best practices and strategies.