Leaders make mistakes: A multilevel consideration of why

Samuel T. Hunter, Brian W. Tate, Jessica L. Dzieweczynski, Katrina E. Bedell-Avers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Errors make up a substantial portion of the fabric of leadership, yet we know very little about how and why they occur. Using Fleishman et al.'s (1991) behavioral taxonomy as a foundation, we offer a multilevel theoretical framework for understanding the causes of leader error - discussing leader, group and organization level influences. The results of the effort reveal several key themes, including the negative impact of timeframe, complex influence of expertise, causes of rigidity in problem solving, and the key role of the subordinate in minimizing the negative impacts of error. A closer consideration of these themes reveals several practical and theoretical implications for reducing the frequency and severity of leader errors. We conclude with a discussion of directions for future research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)239-258
Number of pages20
JournalLeadership Quarterly
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Business and International Management
  • Applied Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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