You can count on critics all day, every day. They can be counted on to be consistent and relentless in their efforts. You always know where they stand…on the other side of whatever you do. Critics are simply Haters.
Critics can be found everywhere. They can be found on the living room couches during college football season, the bleachers of any youth sports activity, in board rooms, in hallways, the backseats of vehicles, the editorial section of newspapers, and especially in the comments thread on a social media post. Sometimes they can even lie withing oneself.
John Maxwell says that, “When you get kicked in the rear, you know you are out in front.” Leaders emerge at the front of the pack, critics linger behind waiting to pounce. If you have ever led in any capacity, you have encountered critics. Leadership requires decisions, which opens the door to criticism.
In this week’s post, we look at the three things you can count on critics for in your leadership journey:
Ever seen a discouraged leader? If you peel back the layers of that discouragement, you will find a critic, and sometimes many critics. The discouragement that a critic piles on a leader adds unnecessary weight to their shoulders that already carries a heavy enough burden. Eventually, if enough weight amasses, it can break a leader’s spirit.
Truett Cathy, the Founder of Chick-fil-A once said, “How do you know if someone needs encouragement? If they are breathing.” When we count on critics for discouragement, we need to run to those people who provide encouragement. They breathe life into us, not rob us of it. They are the antibody to the disease of discouragement that critics can so easily infect us with.
Critics and their negativity are just a distraction. You can count on critics to take your eye off the ball. They will never affirm your path forward, they will only create fog that gets you lost along the way. Distraction leads to lack of focus. Leaders must relentlessly focus on their vision. Vision is the ability to see further. Pursuing a vision requires looking forward, not sideways, and certainly not backwards.
How do you remain forward focused in the midst of criticism? Just lean into your why. The heaviest burden a leader carries is that of their people. The people are our why. When critics distract, they impede our ability to lead people well. We end up more focused on their criticism, than the direction we need to head.
I called offensive plays in the sport of football for twenty plus years. I always told the parents at the beginning of each football season that every play I called was intended to succeed. Never did I hear a critic on a touchdown call…never. Now…after a play that did not go as intended…here they come. Heck, if I would have known the result of a bad play, I wouldn’t have called it either!
When a decision does not produce the desired outcome, it’s a breeding ground for critics. They lay in the weeds until the decision is made, the consequences of the decision happen, then they emerge from the abyss. Critics are responsive, not proactive. You can count on critics to delay their critique until they know the outcome. The worse the outcome, the more intense the critic.
I think we could all agree we have made mistakes worthy of criticism. If we had the ability to delay decisions until we knew the outcome, we would be perfect leaders, and that is not reality. Leaders are proactive deciders, we are not afforded the ability to be delayed deciders.
Maybe you deal with critics better than I do, but they can downright derail my day! I can get so focused on the criticism that I can miss all the good in my world.
As Aristotle said, there are a few ways to avoid criticism entirely. He said, “to say nothing, be nothing, and do nothing.” There you go, it’s that simple, problem solved. Criticism comes with the territory and we have to accept that as leaders.
While writing this post, I came across this great quote by another classic philosopher, Plato. He said, “When men speak ill of thee, live so as nobody may believe them.” Plato was on to something here. If we focus on leading our people and organizations well, those actions will drown out the critics. No one will believe them.
You can count on critics to discourage, distract, and delay, but you can count on leaders to cast a shadow so great that the critics remain in the dark.