Things you cannot do as a firm leader

Mar 05, 2023

When it comes to leadership, things are rarely black and white – but there are some things leaders just shouldn’t ever do.

We all like to write and talk about behaviors that effective leaders should exemplify. There is a lot of information on this subject.

But what there is less information available on, and what is rarely talked about, are things leaders cannot do – behaviors leaders should NEVER display. Before I go into what some of those are, it’s once again confession time: I have been guilty of a few of these myself, although hopefully, I have learned, and will never repeat them again! You want to be sure you NEVER do any of these things:

  1. Talking ill of other people who work in the organization. This is always unacceptable because anyone who hears this is bound to think, “What does this person say about me to other people?” Inexcusable.
  2. Criticizing or berating someone publicly. Most people in leadership roles understand this. Yet it can come out in emotional situations. You can’t do it – ever.
  3. Berating someone privately. “Berating” should never happen. Leaders should only talk with someone about changing a behavior, not destroying their character. You absolutely cannot do this no matter how egregious the behavior was.
  4. Blaming someone else for something that you should be taking the blame for. This is one of the worst leadership practices ever. You are the boss; you are ultimately responsible.
  5. Hogging all the credit. It’s much better to give the credit to the people you work with as it will motivate them to do more/do better. Leaders should deflect credit, not grab it.
  6. Doing anything remotely unethical in front of anyone else. As soon as a leader crosses this line, he or she opens Pandora’s box and gives a green light to unethical behaviors from others. That’s dangerous!
  7. Showing too much fear of what is to come. While leaders have to be authentic, they also need to project confidence that success IS possible. Showing doubt about that will be demotivating to everyone else.

When it comes to leadership, it’s rarely black and white. Each situation is different. But there are some things leaders just shouldn’t ever do. The list above includes some of those. What would you add? 

Mark Zweig is Zweig Group’s chairman and founder. Contact him at

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Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.