No one likes to be criticized. But if you’re a leader, it comes with the territory. Be a big boy, accept it and learn how to handle it. Some guys try to avoid criticism by cowering in the corner. They hesitate. They vacillate. They never make a decision. Guess what? They’re still criticized for being spineless leaders. That’s not the route to take.
For me it’s important to accept reality. If you’re a leader, you will face criticism. Sometimes criticism is justified, sometimes it’s not. Either way, you need to learn how to deal with it. Here are four simple ways to deal with criticism.
1. Listen to it. You heard me right. Listen to it. Some people will tell you to ignore your critics. I think that’s a huge mistake. Sometimes my critics are right. So I better be willing to listen. Don’t turn into a closed-off, tone-deaf, ivory-tower leader who has no clue when there’s a problem.
Now, before I move on let me make one important caveat. There are some people who only and always criticize. You don’t have to listen to those people. They may be right from time to time but it’s because they’re like a broken clock telling the right time twice a day.
2. Learn from it. If you can listen to criticism you can learn from it. Someone once told me that there is a kernel of truth in every criticism. Even if my critic is ultimately wrong I try to listen and learn so I can grow as a leader. If you’re not wiling to learn, you will never grow. If you never grow, you can never lead. If you can’t lead, then you might as well hang it up. Swallow your pride and learn from your critics.
3. Love the person. Now this is a tough one. You have to be able to separate the critic from the criticism. The only way I’ve been able to do this is through much prayer. You have to love the person – yes, even your biggest critic. One of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do is confront an ardent and outspoken critic and pray with him. A humbling experience to say the least. Only God can give you the grace to receive criticism, even if unjust, and love the person anyway.
4. Don’t live in it. As I’ve said, it’s important to learn from the criticism but you shouldn’t dwell on it. Dwelling on criticism or critical people is a recipe for disaster. Visit your criticism but don’t live there. If the criticism is unjust choose to listen, learn, and love. Grow through it. If the criticism is warranted receive it and change accordingly. Either way, don’t live there. Deal with it and move on.
I don’t know any leader who doesn’t need to learn this lesson. It’s one lesson I have to learn again and again. But I pray that this simple list will help you deal with criticism when it comes your way. God bless you on your leadership journey. Remember, in the end, it really only matters what Jesus thinks.