Are You Guilty of Committing the 7 Deadly Sins of Leadership?

Are You Guilty of Committing the 7 Deadly Sins of Leadership?

By Dave Carvajal on October 6, 2016 in Leadership

These are not the traditional ABCs of deadly sins (i.e., avarice, greed, lust). As humans and leaders, we know success and its opposite are complex parts of life, not cut-and-dried results of moral failure.

Exhibiting the following traits doesn’t make you a bad person. The fact that you are reading this means that you are a person who is actively working to become a better leader. Through a few silent behaviors, however, you may be contributing to an environment that stunts your organization’s promise.

As a C-suite executive leader, your colleagues take their cues from you. If you are mired in bad habits, you are closing yourself off to reality, misguiding your team, missing opportunities, and overall not enjoying your work. So use the following list as a checkpoint. If you commit these “sins” regularly, heed the words of Ice Cube himself and “check yourself before you wreck yourself.” It could be time to start shifting your perspective.


We grow up with a distorted sense of confidence: either we have too much or too little. In leadership, confidence is essential. Let’s compare the effects of confidence and doubt.

Confidence creates committed action, curiosity, creativity, cooperation and communication—all things CEOs must stand upon as the company’s rock. Confidence makes this possible because you have a healthy sense of your skills and experience, as well as your place among your team.

Doubt is distortion from which flows fear, anxiety, negativity, and isolation from the team. A company with ailing roots will never thrive.

Luckily, confidence can be inborn, and as discussed in my post on the fixed vs. growth mindset, it can be built. It is also your job to instill it in your employees. That’s what great leaders do—create certainty by putting aside nagging self-doubt in order to express positive clarity.

I don’t mean shooting positivity beams wildly in all directions. I mean setting achievable and challenging goals, praising what is going right, and giving honest feedback about what is not working. To remove self-doubt, remove the focus from yourself and tell your team how and why they are essential to the achievement of strategic outcomes.


Affectation is pretending to be someone you’re not. Masks are easy to see through because it’s obvious the person is focusing on the wrong things, like their appearance, over the team’s needs.

True leaders are genuine because they bring their own experience to the table. They meet experiences head-on, drawing conclusions and learning lessons they can share.

There will always be others who seem bigger, more successful, and with more presence than you. It’s great to take notes from highly successful executives, and put them into practice. If you’re copying verbatim from the big-name leadership gurus, you’re not leading…you’re following.

Nothing good comes from envy. Resources and inspiration are plentiful, and stillyou must be the one to interpret, to apply, to inspire, and to lead your unique organization.


Those dealing with self-doubt may think this isn’t their issue. And it is quite easy to swing to the extreme, especially when money, public image, and status are at stake. The key word to checking arrogance is respect—respect for other people’s tempo, boundaries, and knowledge.

Arrogance can lead you to believe you know better than the rest of the team, that you know better than everyone. If you are the smartest person in the room, you are in the wrong room. And if you’re talking more than you’re listening, you are blocking out valuable insights. Why even head an organization if you know how to do it all yourself? Leaders make work cohesive—not make work a vehicle for their egos.


Micromanaging comes from a whole host of issues: arrogance of thinking that you can run an operation all by yourself, greed to flex your brain power and do every task yourself, and doubt in your team rolled into one. If you think you may be micro-managing, ask yourself about the last time you checked in with your employees. If you don’t ask them to define their own challenges and strategies for meeting them, you may want to give more trust.


Anger should be rightful, not righteous. It is authentic to let yourself feel upset when things go awry. Blind, overwhelming anger is just emotion—pure force that controls you. Left unchecked, it wreaks havoc on your health and relationships. If your stress levels are through the roof, consider taking a step back and examining: Are you overly attached to winning at all costs? Is your self worth tied to some egocentric victory? Perhaps you fear criticism? The next time you feel gripped to take it out on your employees, go outside and take a few breaths. Take a vacation. Or consider yoga, meditation, coaching, and even therapy if your negative interactions at work outweigh the positive.


Leaders call the final shots on the best course of action for their organization. When you waffle between courses of action for too long, you may fall behind competition who is willing to take risks and roll with the consequences or miss out on market opportunity. Indecision and procrastination also waste the company’s time, lowering morale and progress—perhaps even revenue. You won’t grow if you’re not making some kind of progress every day.


Being a workaholic is a badge of commitment—long hours are often important to a company’s success, and executives should be the most passionate employees. But focusing too much on one thing, whether it’s immediate profits over culture, or hours rather than productivity, can lead to short-sightedness.

Conversely, taking time to learn about colleagues personal lives, celebrating progress, achievements, and recognizing the road ahead all contribute to loyalty, contentment, and working towards a common purpose. An enjoyable process focused on performance excellence makes results so much sweeter.

This is the greatest time in the history of the world to be a corporate leader. We’re all looking to conquer the world with what we are doing. We need good people to help us do it. People who want to achieve success for themselves and can help us do it as a team. Investing in our people, making culture our strategic advantage is the way to victory in our businesses and in our lives.


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