Criticism and Leadership
Several good articles this week on dealing with Criticism:
- Criticism is the Price of Growth – Pastors.com
- 5 Much Healthier Ways to Tackle Your Critics – Carey Nieuwhof
- Christ Removes the Curse of Criticism – Desiring God
- 7 Ways to Respond to Negative People in Church – Ron Edmondson
Leadership & criticism go hand & hand. If avoiding criticism is a goal for you than DON’T get involved in leadership. Leaders experience different types of critics: direct criticism that comes face to face, indirect criticism that comes in the form of subtle questions about decisions made or gossip that’s behind the leaders back & can influence the opinion of others. And some people engage in indirect criticism not wanting or believing that their causing any harm to the leader, but he/she feels it. It’s hard to know how you’ll respond when criticism comes until it does. And when it does, you’ll probably be surprised at your own response. Some negative responses include:
-> Paralysis. Criticism can paralyze leaders. It exacts an emotional toll. When you’ve worked hard & put a lot of time into something that doesn’t go well or as well as some expected & criticism ensues – OUCH! One great leader I know talked about curling up in the fetal position & not wanting to get up after a season of criticism.
-> Anger & lashing out. When you’re squeezed, what’s inside comes out. And sometimes criticism can cause a leader to explode on either the critic or worse, those closest to him like his/her family.
-> Overcompensating through more work. Sometimes, working harder is the right answer. However, as leaders, we can begin to do more & carry more weight just to avoid or counter criticism leading us to neglect rest & family time.
A Better Response to Criticism:
- Expect it. It comes with the territory. The famous axiom attributed to Aristotle says it best, “To Avoid Criticism, Say Nothing, Do Nothing, Be Nothing.”
- Make sure your identity is in Christ through a deep devotional life, being assured of your calling, & praying through all your leadership decisions. Criticism hurts the most when we’ve begun to value & find identity in the opinions of others over Christ & his call.
- Learn from criticism. Many times criticism hurts because its true. We need to hear it, embrace it, & make adjustments in our leadership. Criticism can be a gift to us if it helps us improve.
- Pray for your critics. Some want what’s best for you & the church. Some are spilling out what’s inside of their heart – negativity, pain, restlessness, etc. All need leadership. Pray & ask for wisdom in how to lead them & the organization to greater health.
- Weigh your critics. This axiom comes from Dr. Henry Cloud – “Weigh your critics, don’t count them.” Online criticism shouldn’t carry a ton of weight. People will say things online that they’d never say face to face. You’re never as good or bad as you appear online. Are they leaders in the organization that see the whole picture? Most people will never know the reason for or complexity of the decision you make. Learn something from all criticism, but discern what criticism is weighty enough to demand a direct response.
- Develop relationships with those who you can confide in about leadership issues. Don’t bottle it up. Find wise experienced leaders that can help you weigh situations & give you feedback on next steps.
What other tips would you offer leaders about dealing with criticism?