Top Ten Mistakes Leaders Make


Dr. Hans Finzel, the author of this leadership book entitled The Top 10 Mistakes Leaders Make is the Executive Director of CB International, a church planting and leadership training ministry currently operating in over 600 countries across the world. Finzel had earlier served as a pastor in Long Beach, California, and spent a decade in Vienna, Austria, as a trainer and administrator for CB International in Eastern Europe. He is the author of several books, among which is Empowered Leaders. Finzel and his family live in Highlands Ranch, Colorado.

In this book, the author reflects that top-flight leaders are not born, but they learn by example. According to him, poor leadership habits spawn new generations of poor leaders or they create enough discomfort that the leader figures out to do right.

Finzel describes the ten most common leadership mistakes as:

  • The top-down attitude
  • Dirty delegation
  • Putting paperwork before people work.
  • Communication chaos
  • The absence of affirmation
  • Missing the culture clues
  • No room for mavericks
  • Success without successors
  • Dictatorship in decision-making
  • Failure to focus on the future

According to this author, leadership is dangerous, and the world history can best be written by studying the lives of great and terrible leaders and what they accomplished through others. Finzel says that those who are in a leadership position can on the one hand move men, women and mountains for tremendous good, adding that at the same time, those in leadership position hold in their hands, the power to do irreparable damage to their followers by the mistakes they make.

Finzel submits that the greater your sphere of leadership, the more your impact on the world around you, stressing that the more people you lead, the greater the potential damage caused through your poor decisions and actions. He asserts that this is one of the sobering realities you must face when you take up the mantle of leadership.

This author says good leaders seemed to be scarce commodity today, and that there are many openings but fewer and fewer good candidates. According to him, the book is not intended to answer the question of leadership scarcity, but rather to look at what makes a good leader go bad, or better still, what habits to avoid if you want to help to fill the gap and replenish the great leadership famine. Finzel says that his informal survey of leaders suggests that people fall into leadership more by accident than by design, adding that by through whatever circumstances that led them to that point, they are thrown into leadership and become reluctant leaders.

Structurally speaking, this book is segmented into ten chapters based on the identified ten top mistakes made by leaders.

Chapter One identifies the top-down attitude as the number one leadership hang-up. According to Finzel, “I intended to save the best for the last, like a top ten countdown. But on the second thought, I realise that this top-down attitude problem is like the mother of all leadership hang-ups. If you have it, you will spread it to everything your leadership hands touch. So it must come first as foundational to everything else I will observe about how not to lead.”

The author states that the top-down approach to leadership is based on the military model of barking orders to weak underlings. According to the great motivator, top-down attitude manifests in abusive authority, deplorable delegation, lack of listening, dictatorship in decision making, lack of letting go, and egocentric manner. Finzel submits that the attitude comes naturally to most people, adding that servant leadership is much rarer. He adds that effective leaders see themselves at the bottom of an inverted pyramid.

Chapter Two of the book is entitled Putting Paperwork before Peoplework. According to Finzel, the greater the leadership role, the less time there seems to be for people; and the greater the leadership role, the more important the peoplework is. He adds that people are opportunities, not interruptions, and it is only through association that you can achieve transformation. The author says that people tend to paperwork before peoplework because seen results take priority over the unseen relationship; task work pushes aside idle talk, the material world predominates over the immaterial world, obsessive-compulsive behaviour; relationships don’t fit our deadlines mentality, etc.

In Chapters Three to Five, Finzel examines the concepts of the absence of affirmation; lack of room for mavericks; and dictatorship in decision making.

Chapter Six is entitled Dirty Delegation. Here, this motivational discourse expert interprets “Dirty Delegation” as the refusal to relax and let go. According to the author, over managing is one of the cardinal sins of poor leadership. He adds that nothing frustrates those working for you more than sloppy delegation with too many strings attached, suggesting that delegation should match each worker’s follow-through ability. According to Finzel, most leaders refuse to delegate as a result of the fear of losing authority; the fear of the work being done poorly; fear of the work being done better; unwillingness to take the necessary time; fear of depending on others; and lack of training and positive experience. The author identifies four stages of delegation as an assignment, authority, accountability, and affirmation.

The last chapter of this artistic work, that is Chapter Ten, is entitled Failure to Focus on the Future. According to the author, the future is rushing at us at breakneck speed, and a leader’s concentration must not be in the past nor in the present, but on the future. Finzel stresses that vision is an effective leader’s chief preoccupation, adding that organisations are reinvented with a new generation of dreamers. Quoting Leroy Eims in this chapter, the author asserts that a leader is “one who sees more than the others see, who sees furthers than others see, and who sees before others do.” Finzel also stresses the need for change as far as leadership is concerned. According to him, “change is inevitable; not to change is a sure sign of imminent extinction … leaders who don’t change with the changing climate of our future world will find themselves only a museum of attraction.”

As regard stylistic diagnosis, Finzel’s efforts are worthy of artistic commendation here. The language maintains some simplicity, and the syntax well ordered. To achieve notional conviction and analytical reinforcement, he employs a lot of Biblical allusions, classical literary allusions, quotes, etc. To ensure easy study and understanding, he uses boxed précis and Powerpoints where he showcases the major conceptual flesh of his messages.

Do you want to be a leader? I mean a successful and respectable leader? Rather than seeking oracular intervention for your aspiration, what you simply need is a copy of this masterpiece.

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