3 key mistakes leaders make today and how to overcome them

By Chet Kapoor, Chairman & CEO,DataStax

Mistakes: we all make them. Whether it’s screwing up a demo in front of the entire leadership team or hiring the wrong person for a role, I can’t even count how many times I’ve made mistakes throughout my career. These moments are never easy, but they are always learning experiences–and the best leaders are always learning.

Below, I share a few common mistakes leaders and organizations are making today and how they can overcome them to drive lasting success.

Mistake 1: undisciplined growth

Leaders are facing times of uncertainty, magnified recently with the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank and ongoing market turmoil. As companies continue to navigate the current economic headwinds, one thing is clear: growing responsibly is critical both in the good times and the hard times.

Kelly Battles is a seasoned CFO and board member at several Silicon Valley organizations. I recently discussed the biggest mistakes companies make with regard to execution.

“The biggest mistakes that I’ve seen are whiplash overreactions to the fear and greed cycle,” Kelly said.

When times are good, it can be easy to get greedy. Maybe your burn increases, you loosen your controls, or you don’t take discipline as seriously. As a result, you have an organization that’s floating with the tides. The problem is when a tough period hits, now you are unprepared. As we’ve seen over the last several months, irresponsible growth can lead to hiring freezes and limiting investments (at best) or mass layoffs and big risks (at worst).

In Kelly’s words, “The best companies are disciplined during the greedy times and lead with strength during the toughest.”

Growing responsibly requires thinking about where you’re investing resources, the way you’re prioritizing projects, and how you’re tracking progress. It’s a constant balance of patience and impatience–but if you stay disciplined, it will pay off.

Mistake 2: failing to implement AI across the business

The age of AI is here. Leading enterprises like Netflix and Uber have been leveraging AI to drive business outcomes for years, but today these capabilities are within reach for companies of all sizes. It’s not just about building AI products–it’s also about using AI to improve performance and efficiency across the business.

I had the chance to catch up with Hussein Mehanna, who heads up AI and ML at the self-driving car company Cruise. Hussein shared how his team is using AI to improve their operational efficiency. They have a paradigm called the “continuous learning machine,” where engineers use AI to automate their repetitive work tasks and build predictive models to help with productivity. This way, they can focus on high-value tasks and the more creative aspects of their work.

Winning companies of today and of the future will be AI-first:

It starts with data. Focus on finding quality data and building proprietary signals (i.e. unique insights that come from your data)Once you have quality signals, start searching for monetization methods. Usually, you can use the data to improve your apps and productsHave a strong AI execution framework that includes people, process and, technology–and use it across the business

Mistake #3: Treating DEI&B like a “nice-to-have”

Many companies view diversity, equality, inclusion, and belonging (DEI&B) through the numbers, and there’s a common misconception that hiring diverse individuals equates to a more diverse and inclusive culture. But that’s only a small piece of the big picture.

To build a truly inclusive and equitable workplace, leaders need to focus on driving real behavioral change. This starts with each individual looking in the mirror and asking themselves every day: How did I show up? Did I listen actively? Can I identify any implicit or unconscious biases at play? If I made a mistake, did I take accountability, and how can I do better next time?

Alana Mayo is president at Orion Pictures, a division of MGM that’s dedicated to underrepresented voices and authentic storytelling in film. I often refer back to our discussion on the Inspired Execution podcast, where Alana shared tips for holding ourselves accountable and demonstrating inclusivity.

“In meetings, don’t always speak first. Take note of when you are talking more than other people in the room. And the biggest thing to remember is that both active listening and speaking up require vulnerability,” she said. “It ultimately goes back to creating a culture where there’s really good communication and where everybody feels comfortable enough to be vulnerable.”

Today, it’s not enough to treat your DEI efforts as a box on a checklist. Real progress and impact start with each leader, each individual at your company. And in the current economic climate, now is actually the perfect time to double down on investing in your people–it will pay off.

For more insights and stories from world-class leaders, check out Inspired Execution here or wherever you listen to your podcasts. Season 5 is coming soon!

About Chet Kapoor:

Chet is Chairman and CEO of DataStax. He is a proven leader and innovator in the tech industry with more than 20 years in leadership at innovative software and cloud companies, including Google, IBM, BEA Systems, WebMethods, and NeXT. As Chairman and CEO of Apigee, he led company-wide initiatives to build Apigee into a leading technology provider for digital business. Google (Apigee) is the cross-cloud API management platform that operates in a multi- and hybrid-cloud world. Chet successfully took Apigee public before the company was acquired by Google in 2016. Chet earned his B.S. in engineering from Arizona State University.

IT Leadership