In mammals, hematopoietic homeostasis is maintained by a fine-tuned balance among the self-renewal, proliferation, differentiation and survival of hematopoietic stem cells and their progenies. Each process is also supported by the delicate balance of the expression of multiple genes specific to each process. GATA1 is a transcription factor that comprehensively regulates the genes that are important for the development of erythroid and megakaryocytic cells. Accumulating evidence supports the notion that defects in GATA1 function are intimately linked to hematopoietic disorders. In particular, the somatic mutation of the GATA1 gene, which leads to the production of N-terminally truncated GATA1, contributes to the genesis of transient myeloproliferative disorder and acute megakaryoblastic leukemia in infants with Down syndrome. Similarly, a mutation in the GATA1 regulatory region that reduces GATA1 expression is involved in the onset of erythroid leukemia in mice. In both cases, the accumulation of immature progenitor cells caused by GATA1 dysregulation underlies the pathogenesis of the leukemia. This review provides a summary of multi-step leukemogenesis with a focus on GATA1 dysfunction.