Close this search box.
Close this search box.

5 Simple Mistakes Even Experienced CEOs Make

Albert Einstein famously said, “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” Making mistakes in the process of innovating is necessary to gain new knowledge. But the mentality of “mistakes are necessary” should not extend to knowledge we already have about good management practices.

Yet, even the most experienced CEOs and their senior executives make mistakes. It’s human nature. However, if we understand the reasons behind why those mistakes happen, we can prevent them.

Here are five costly mistakes that CEOs should watch for both in themselves and in their leadership team.

“Great leaders put their pride aside and relentlessly search for easy solutions to blow away the competition.”

1. Using attrition to reduce headcount. It feels bad to fire even weak performers. To avoid those bad feelings and keep the peace, your managers will often wait for natural attrition, rationalizing that waiting for employees to leave on their own is best for morale and is less expensive for the company. But this method hurts productivity as poor performers are kept and good performers leave. Work with your team leaders to make the right personnel decisions for your company.

2. Assuming your company is as lean as it can be. Pride makes leaders blind to simple improvements within their control because they are convinced they have not missed any low-hanging fruit or easy fixes. So to improve their areas, they launch big transformational projects that promise big results. Unfortunately, those are the efforts that most often overpromise and underdeliver. Conversely, great leaders know this. They put their pride aside and relentlessly search for easy solutions to blow away the competition.

3. Giving too much credence to others’ reputations. Home plate umpires are certain they are objective when they call strikes and balls. But statistics show that MLB umpires subconsciously give all-star pitchers an advantage 17% of the time. Similarly, managers subconsciously treat opinions as facts from their “all-stars” while dismissing facts that come from people they don’t respect or don’t know. Strong leaders know the difference. They avoid it by questioning everyone’s statements and by reminding their team to do the same.

4. Requiring unanimous agreement from your executive team. Leaders want everyone on their team to feel valued and respected, and there is nothing wrong with that. But effectively giving veto power to any team member who is opposed to a decision goes too far. Many will have opinions that are not based on facts and others may have personal agendas that obscure sound judgment. The best executives make decisions after being sure they have solicited the facts they need from their team, clearly distinguishing those facts from opinions.

5. Automatically going to outside “experts” to fix problems. Mark Twain once joked that “an expert is anyone who comes from more than 60 miles away.” Managers tend to discount the value of the experts they have resident in their company. This problem has been a boon to the generalist consultant who plays on managers’ fears that their team lacks talent. Meanwhile, employees roll their eyes as the consultant repackages ideas from the employees.

Keeping these 5 simple pieces of advice in mind will prevent costly mistakes and ensure that only those that lead to true innovation are made.


  • Get the CEO Briefing

    Sign up today to get weekly access to the latest issues affecting CEOs in every industry
  • upcoming events


    Strategic Planning Workshop

    1:00 - 5:00 pm

    Over 70% of Executives Surveyed Agree: Many Strategic Planning Efforts Lack Systematic Approach Tips for Enhancing Your Strategic Planning Process

    Executives expressed frustration with their current strategic planning process. Issues include:

    1. Lack of systematic approach (70%)
    2. Laundry lists without prioritization (68%)
    3. Decisions based on personalities rather than facts and information (65%)


    Steve Rutan and Denise Harrison have put together an afternoon workshop that will provide the tools you need to address these concerns.  They have worked with hundreds of executives to develop a systematic approach that will enable your team to make better decisions during strategic planning.  Steve and Denise will walk you through exercises for prioritizing your lists and steps that will reset and reinvigorate your process.  This will be a hands-on workshop that will enable you to think about your business as you use the tools that are being presented.  If you are ready for a Strategic Planning tune-up, select this workshop in your registration form.  The additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    New York, NY: ​​​Chief Executive's Corporate Citizenship Awards 2017

    Women in Leadership Seminar and Peer Discussion

    2:00 - 5:00 pm

    Female leaders face the same issues all leaders do, but they often face additional challenges too. In this peer session, we will facilitate a discussion of best practices and how to overcome common barriers to help women leaders be more effective within and outside their organizations. 

    Limited space available.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $495 will be added to your total.

    Golf Outing

    10:30 - 5:00 pm
    General’s Retreat at Hermitage Golf Course
    Sponsored by UBS

    General’s Retreat, built in 1986 with architect Gary Roger Baird, has been voted the “Best Golf Course in Nashville” and is a “must play” when visiting the Nashville, Tennessee area. With the beautiful setting along the Cumberland River, golfers of all capabilities will thoroughly enjoy the golf, scenery and hospitality.

    The golf outing fee includes transportation to and from the hotel, greens/cart fees, use of practice facilities, and boxed lunch. The bus will leave the hotel at 10:30 am for a noon shotgun start and return to the hotel after the cocktail reception following the completion of the round.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $295 will be added to your total.