The Seven Deadly Sins of Leadership

The following is a guest post from, Kimberly Ciesla, Rowan University Chapter President.

In PRSSA, students are exposed to a number of opportunities to lead. But often times, teams don’t work together as cohesively as they could because leaders make common mistakes that can break down the morale of the team. During PRSA’s recent webinar, Getting to Great Leadership and Influence: How to Fast Track Your Leadership Impact, David Grossman of The Grossman Group discussed the seven deadly sins leaders make and how to solve them.

  1. Myopia. Leaders often don’t understand that everything communicates—body language, facial expressions, etc. Often, team members will read into these actions based on their perceptions and current feelings, sometimes skewing the anticipated message. It is the leader’s job to reflect the message in all aspects of communication. Grossman suggested three solutions: (1) Get a mirror on your desk to remind you that you’re always communicating (2) Become familiar with your leadership style (Now Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham is a good tool) and (3) Get feedback from your team on how you’re doing.
  2. Hypocrisy. Another common mistake leaders make is not practicing what they preach. The key to building trust is consistency. Match your words and your actions. Also, choose someone on your team to be your truth teller.
  3. Sloth. Sometimes leaders become so comfortable with communicating that they don’t take the time to plan basic communication, like meetings. Messages need to be properly thought out and communicated in the best way to reach a mutual understanding. Know your message for each meeting and make sure the team is on the same page.
  4. Detachment. Leaders often detach themselves from the “human element” when leading and often fail to show they care about team members. How well do you know your team? When was the last time you socialized with them? Wrote them a thank you note or recognized their hard work? These simple things will boost team members’ morale.
  5. Materialism. Instead of thinking about end results and outcome, leaders tend to put emphasis on individual tasks. Take a step back and instead of micromanaging, inspire the team to do a good job by coming up with a shared outcome and how you plan to measure success. Use sentences like “The outcome we seek on this project is…” or “What’s the problem we’re trying to solve?” to keep your team on track.
  6. Presumption. Another mistake leaders often make is communicating from a leadership perspective rather than the perspective of the audience. Grossman said, “Real communication happens in the mind of the listener.”
  7. Irrelevance. The last deadly sin occurs when leaders don’t provide context or relevance. Make sure team members understand what’s going on. Always keep an audience mindset about how you can move people to action.

For more information or to view the webinar tools, visit this site. This webinar is also available for free on-demand through PRSA.

As leaders in PRSSA, how can we use this information to improve our own leadership style?

6 thoughts on “The Seven Deadly Sins of Leadership

    • Author gravatar

      Those are great points and reminders. Great job Kimberly! And to reiterate on #6 and #7, my event planning professor is a “fan of the fans”. They can often make or break an event so it is very important to view other perspectives on yourself, a meeting or even an event if you are calling the audience to action.

    • Author gravatar

      Thanks for posting these common mistakes in leadership! I had my first leadership experience in PRSSA this past fall as an account executive in our chapter’s firm. Even though I was inexperienced, being an account executive helped me learn on how to improve my leadership skills. Besides these “seven deadly sins of leadership,” another thing I learned to improve on was instilling more of a sense of control and orderliness among my teammates. While it is good to show the “human element” and care for your other team members, keeping order of what your team does keeps things on track and everyone respectful of one another. I was sometimes a little lenient on some situations and tasks did not get done correctly. However, now I know where to keep a balance between caring and getting to know my account team, but also keeping everything in check.

    • Author gravatar

      Thanks for your feedback! I’m glad you enjoyed the post! 🙂

    • Author gravatar

      These are great reminders to all levels of leadership. It’s wonderful read your insights and I’m busy passing them on to the many community leaders who I believe will benefit from your concise list. I look forward to sharing it with my chapter board.

    • Author gravatar

      This is a great post! It helped me view my actions as a PRSSA chapter president from the “outside looking in.” Honest and well thought out posts regarding leadership are much needed.


    • Author gravatar

      Awesome post! There are a ton of great points in there! Plus, just things that we all forget to do when we get busy…like thank you notes or listing better! Thanks for the great post!

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