I believe most of you know I wrote a book Mistakes Leaders Make. I am always interested in learning what leaders do well to help them be fruitful in their roles and responsibilities, but am also interested in understanding what leaders do poorly that leads to bad things happening. Dan Rockwell shares some solid thoughts on what he considers to be the top 4 mistakes busy leaders make. When you are just too busy, mistakes can multiply and harm everyone on the team and in the organization.

Originally published by Dan Rockwell

Mistake #1: Being penny wise and pound foolish.

Everything isn’t a crisis, even if you think it is. It’s destructive to allow urgencies to replace priorities.

Busyness is no excuse to take your eye off what’s important.

Some leaders NEED busyness to feel important but being busy isn’t necessarily productive. There’s always too much to do.

Busyness invites short-sightedness.

  1. Neglecting self-care like exercise, healthy diet, and sleep. Leave work when you still have energy.
  2. Minimizing self-development and postponing training.
  3. Cutting corners and taking shortcuts
  4. Justifying pushiness.
  5. Disregarding relationship building.

Time pressure lends itself to mistakes. The faster you go, the more mistakes you make.

Caveat: If the house is burning down, don’t worry about getting to bed on time. Put the fire out.

Tip: Establish non-negotiables that reflect what’s truly important.

Mistake #2: Beating yourself up when you screw up.

The toughest battles you face express the war within.

Beating yourself up doesn’t lift you up.

Beating yourself up isn’t moral superiority.


Encourage yourself the same way you encourage your friends when they screw up.

  1. You experience emotions. You aren’t your emotions.
  2. You make mistakes. You aren’t your mistakes.
  3. You succeed. You aren’t your success.

Mistake #3: Doing it yourself.

The ‘best’ excuse for over-work is doing the work yourself.  

The favorite saying of do-it-yourself leaders is, “It’s faster if I do it myself.”


  1. Only do what only you can do.
  2. Learn to delegate. You expand your impact when you trust competent others to get things done.

#4. Giving voice to everything in your head.

Time pressure is an invitation to say something stupid.

Self-expression is not justification for…

  1. Backward-facing whining.
  2. Self-justifying defensiveness.
  3. Destructive criticism.
  4. Catastrophizing.
  5. Problem amplification.

Tip: open your mouth to make things better.

What mistakes do busy leaders make?

Still curious:

Why Smart Leaders Do Stupid Things

Solving The 12 Dumbest Things Leaders Do