4 Constructive Ways Leaders Can Handle Criticism

Taken from writer Glenn Llopis

Criticism is a natural part of leadership. If no one is criticizing your leadership – you are not leading correctly. Leadership is not a popularity contest. Leadership is about always doing what is in the best interest of the organization you are serving. Leaders get paid to make the difficult decisions. But many leaders don’t really know how to lead; they waste time trying to satisfy the agendas of others – rather than focusing on the goals and objectives of the organization and people they serve.

Leadership requires mental toughness. If you are not being criticized, you are not leading and guiding the organization to grow, innovate and explore endless possibilities. You need to be strong and objective to whatever criticism people throw your way.

Much of what ultimately happens is out of your direct control. However, if you can see what others don’t and anticipate the unexpected — as a leader you will find ways to influence outcomes that benefit those you serve. Effective leaders stay focused on confronting conflict head on – and move on to the next opportunity. When you get too personally vested, it becomes difficult to handle criticism and you eventually become stereotyped and your authority weakens. You lose momentum as you begin to make poor decisions trying to reestablish and validate your leadership to yourself and others.

As you find success in your leadership journey, some people will try to take you down. The leaches and loafers that are envious of your success may attempt to slow down your momentum. This is actually a sign that you are on the right path. Being a 21st century leader requires you to be a change agent and people don’t like to change.

As you lean-into the challenges and new opportunities that come with them, remember that criticism is a natural process of the leadership journey. Since criticism is never easy to handle, keep the following four ways in mind to ensure you handle it wisely.

1. Don’t Play The Victim

When criticism strikes, never take on a “woe’s me” attitude.   People find it difficult to respect a leader who becomes the victim. The victimization mentality is not a leadership trait, but rather represents an individual that lacks the mental fortitude and composure to be in a leadership role.  When leaders play to the victim narrative, it exposes their lack of maturity and doubt rapidly begins to enter the minds of those they lead about their ability to endure the pressure, intensity and uncertainty.

Rather than play the victim, own the criticism and convert it into new opportunities previously unseen. Be a change agent and turn the negativity into a platform to enable growth, innovation and endless possibilities.

2. Don’t React Impulsively

When faced with criticism, step back and assess the situation. Be patient, don’t react impulsively.  Too many leaders get defensive, focus more on their reputation and overreact, rather than evaluate the situation at hand.

Adversity my make or break you, but it primarily reveals you.   Leaders must practice patience when faced with criticism and show a high level of composure and executive presence.   Criticism comes and goes.   How well you lead through it is what earns you respect from your peers.

3. Don’t Take It Personally

I’ve been advised by my mentors not to care so much what people say.   This does not imply that I shouldn’t work hard or perform at my highest levels – it refers to the importance of not taking criticism personally.  As a leader, you must be mindful not to get overly attached to the business and the issues at hand.  When you take criticism too personally, it becomes more difficult to be objective towards meeting the needs of the business and the people you lead.

Leadership is not easy and handling criticism is an unwritten rule in the job description. It happens often and if you lead to win, advance others and the organization you serve – you should expect criticism and know how to handle it. Those leaders that take it personally will find their leadership role short lived.

4. Turn Criticism Into Opportunity

Criticism is another way of saying “learning moments.”  Though you can never be perfect when leading, you must be open-minded enough to course correct along the way. Leadership requires you to pivot, renew and reinvent yourself. Though you may have experienced success in the past, leadership requires you to invest in yourself so that you can become a better, faster and more fluid change agent.

Great leaders and their organizations are often criticized. As the saying goes, “It’s difficult to get to the top, but even harder to stay there.”  Why is it harder to stay on top?   Because it’s easy to grow complacent – and it’s difficult to endure the critics that don’t believe you’ve earned the right to be there in the first place.   Staying focused is critical when you are a leader and diffusing the noise by staying focused on the next level of evolution in your business will help you shut down your critics.

One of the most important qualities of leadership is being a good listener. And that applies just as much, if not more, when you are being criticized. Don’t try to shut it down. In fact, turn up the volume and really listen to what is being said. Too many times leaders turn the criticism around on the person speaking up, instead of seeing it as an opportunity to learn from someone else. Listening to criticism is a leadership responsibility that does not appear in the job description, but it can make you a more effective and trustworthy leader if you handle it constructively.

 

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