Benefiting From the Critics

March 9, 2011 § Leave a comment

Regardless of the setting that you lead in, there is one thing that ties all leaders together; criticism. One of the hardest things about leading is learning how to channel the criticism that you receive. There is a fine line when it comes to finding the balance between allowing your critics to paralyze you and leveraging their critique to grow you. There are a few observations that I have made regarding leaders and their ability to channel criticism.

The first kind of leader is consumed by criticism. They allow the negative press to become their focus until they are insecure in their position. Their attention is taken off of the group they lead and they are motivated to make decisions to appease the critics. The harm done is obvious. The effectiveness you bring to your organization is nullified and you have surrendered any chance of success to the critics.

The second type of leader completely ignores all criticism. This is equally as dangerous because there is a tendency to feel completely self sufficient when you shut out all of the other voices. If you aren’t careful you will find yourself as ineffective as the leader that is consumed by criticism. An important thing to remember is that not all critics are out to find fault. There will be numerous instances that the critics are right and tuning out their voices completely will limit your ability to think objectively. This solution to dealing with criticism will again render you ineffective to your organization because your ego will not allow you to hear the view of others.

The third and final type of leader I want to deal with is the leader that will weigh out the voice of the critic. This type of leadership requires the leader to be mature and disciplined because it is difficult to hear people speak negatively of your decisions or the long-term vision for your organization. All of us want to be the leader that never gets it wrong. We are passionate about the direction we are leading our followers and we make each decision carefully. So to think that we could be wrong is not only stressful but the criticism is often offensive. The most effective leaders learn to compartmentalize criticism. They value the negative press as much as the positive.  Even though it doesn’t feel good to receive negative feedback the most important thing to them is the health of the organization. We have to realize that criticism helps us think objectively.

More times than not we disregard criticism based on the people it comes from rather than the legitimacy of the feedback. We could receive criticism from someone that we dislike and shrug it off, but then hear the exact same criticism from a close friend and receive it well. A very difficult but helpful strategy is to take all criticism at face value regardless of the originator. Look introspectively and see if there is legitimacy to the criticism. Take an honest assessment of your motives and decisions and see if you can benefit from the critique. If we can learn to lay aside our pride and focus on leading people effectively we will be less likely to be offended by criticism and more likely to benefit from our critics regardless of their intentions.

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