In the past several months we have all been witnessing the worst example of how to deal with criticism. This public person, who aspires to lead a country, seems incapable of handling any form of criticism. He immediately lashes out, usually with a vicious and often insulting attack at his critic, or rival.
Needless to say, this is not a demonstration of leadership. In fact, it reflects low self-confidence, low self-esteem, and lack of dignity and decency. Not the making of a great leader.
Leaders must learn to accept and deal with criticism. It’s an inevitable part of leadership. Some people will agree with your decisions, choices, and ideas, and some will disagree. You need to learn to live with it.
Also, I think that great leaders can use criticism as opportunities for improvement and personal growth. Negative feedback, complaints, and constructive criticism are valuable pieces of information. They highlight areas that we might need to improve or change. They are real gold nuggets.
Criticism can be an Opportunity
Effective leaders know that there is always room for improvement. This is true in all aspects of our jobs. In particular, we can always be better at what we do. To do so requires us to seek candid and constructive feedback and criticism. So, we need to view criticism as a positive thing, not a negative thing. A valuable source of information, rather than a threat.
Therefore, we need to encourage those around us to openly tell us what they think of us, our decisions, actions, and even behavior. It means that we need to make it safe for them to do so. They need to trust us to accept their criticism. Hence, we need to listen and understand their comments, without lashing out, without being defensive. Furthermore, we should thank them and reward them for their honesty, courage, and integrity.
By learning to invite criticism, and using it as a tool for learning and improving ourselves and our organizations, we can become better leaders. And, along the way, we will also provide a great example for others. As a result, we will create a culture where our people treat different views, opinions, and beliefs with respect, and without bias or prejudice.
This will make our organizations better in many ways. More innovative, more creative, more successful. Organizations that are valued by their people, admired by their customers, and respected by their peers.
Now, that’s truly great leadership.