Biggest mistakes made by women in leadership

As I travel and meet men and women leaders from all over the country, I’ve noticed some significant habitual differences between men and women that have a huge impact on the way women appear as leaders.

These habits can hold your organization back from enjoying absolute fulfillment and success. But when they are conquered, the entire company can move forward. Be aware of these serious mistakes:

Being invaluable

Whenever I visit a company in trouble I see a consistent common denominator — the woman who knows everything. She is the go-to person that knows every process, every system, every secret, every answer and solves every problem. If a crisis occurs, everyone turns to Nancy Know-it-All.

Being invaluable prevents you from moving up and holds the company hostage. When everyone depends on one person to make all the decisions and handle every issue, future leaders aren’t able to respond and their talents go untapped.

The worst part of being invaluable is that you’ll never be promoted. Why pay you more if you’re already being paid to do everything?

Listening to your inner critic

I often tell women that their biggest enemy is the voice in their head that says: “What will people think if I ______?” Be aware of your inner critic and notice when those negative messages creep up on you.

Instead of fighting or ignoring this, pay attention to what these messages may be telling you about your fears and insecurities. Most of the time they are untrue and unnecessary. Once you realize this, it will be easier to take risks and step forward in your career.


Multitasking is a female superpower. Seriously, it’s impressive to see some women handle numerous tasks at one time. But while dealing with multiple tasks at once seems productive, I notice that the multitaskers also seem to be scattered, make frequent mistakes and often wind up working late to meet deadlines or complete projects.

Consider the projects and plans that you have outlined right now. Ask yourself, “Is this something that I would expect a team member to accomplish with the same deadline?” If not, rearrange things to be more practical.

When you become mindful of what’s possible and realistic, you will be more productive than you dreamed possible.

Not using skills to negotiate

Women have an inside edge on empathy, which is a great negotiation skill. Still, they often resist the opportunity to negotiate, and it’s a big mistake.

I realized recently that women who avoid negotiating, either for themselves or their company, are those who view negotiation as conflict. Instead, treat a negotiation process as a way to creatively solve a problem. Standing up for yourself and your company does not have to be viewed as an act of aggression. The more you practice negotiating, the easier it will become.


Conquering these habits begins with awareness. As you move away from these common mistakes, you’ll be modeling excellent leadership skills for all of the men and women in your company.


Beth Caldwell is the founder of Pittsburgh Professional Women. Beth is the author of the book “Smart Leadership: 12 Simple Strategies to Help You Shift from Ineffective Boss to Brilliant Leader,” and the lead instructor of the Leadership Academy for Women.