If leadership was a book, the first chapter might be called "You can't please everybody".
This past Monday, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine gave his usual afternoon briefing on Facebook Live. Just like every other day, he was updating his fellow Ohioans on the coronavirus and the measures that would need to be taken to ensure the situation is handled with utmost wisdom.
As he spoke, Facebook comment after Facebook comment poured in. Citizens representing both parties became self-proclaimed "experts" and made their opinion known with every virtual jab they delivered. As certain as it was that Governor DeWine would speak, it was equally certain that he would be questioned.
In the same way, as certain as it is that you will lead, it is equally certain that you will be criticized. You also may hear echoes of voices shouting, "If I were leading, I wouldn't do it that way", or "Do they even know what they're doing?"
But like a vine being pruned, your setback can and will create a comeback. You will be stronger, healthier, and more experienced than before. But how do you handle criticism, especially in the middle of crisis?
Here are three things to remember as you navigate within the criticism conundrum...
1. Criticism is positional, not personal
CEO, Manager, Director, Father, Mother, Pastor, Teacher, Coach, etc. Leaders come in all forms, and along with a leadership title comes certain expectations. Often, the expectations of others are both high to reach and hard to read. As a leader, you know well that unmet expectations equal unhappy people. And no matter who you are, if you are a leader, there will be expectations from certain people that your main job is to please them.
No matter what decisions you make, there will probably reside both favor and opposition. Everyone has an agenda they want met, and if you don’t meet it, then by default humans may naturally attempt to undermine your authority. Every CEO will face it, every parent will feel it, and every pastor will fight it. Therefore, criticism is positional, not personal. When you lead you can expect to receive criticism, so do not let it define you.
2. Listening makes a difference…both to the critics and your friends.
Criticism can't fall on deaf ears. Although some criticism is invalid and a waste of your valuable time, criticism can also be the best friend you haven't met yet. The sad truth is that sometimes the critics make a good point. Sometimes you do screw up, and sometimes you know it right away, but sometimes you don't. When you encounter criticism, it can be hard to process. Questions of self-doubt may creep in, and genuine concern may follow.
However, just because you hear the critics doesn't mean you focus on them. As you hear the critics behind you, be sure to focus on your friends in front of you. Your true friends won't dismiss the criticism, but they will walk through it with you. They will tell you the truth, whether it is what you want to hear or not, and they will never let you sulk in a puddle of self-pity. Rather, they will push you towards truth, redemption and self-improvement.
3. Criticism precedes redemption
Making mistakes is a requirement for redemption to occur. You can't forget that your worst moments are often the ones that lead to your best. When it comes to criticism, analyze it, redeem it, and keep moving forward. Don't forget that God is in the business of restoration, using something you may view as bad and showing you that he meant it for good.
Criticism, like failure, typically isn't the desired outcome of a decision, and yet you probably experience it more than you'd like. And that's okay because criticism will be redeemed to the extent that you'll allow it. Remember, criticism is a part of leadership and a part of life, so let it be your friend and not your enemy. Managing the burden of criticism isn't easy, but remember that it is positional, listening is invaluable, and redemption is coming if you let it. Like a vine you will be pruned, and like a vine you will come back better than before.