Dealing With Critics
If you are the leader, critics come with the territory.
Few things are as frustrating and disheartening for a leader as being on the receiving end of undue criticism.
It seems that no good deed goes unpunished, no meaningful accomplishment is fully recognized, and there will never be a lack of critics or dissatisfaction in your system.
It matters little that most people will never fully understand your challenges as a leader.
Not that they can’t have the right to what you know and can’t share.
Many want to have an opinion about how things should be without having responsibility for the very things they criticize.
Some critics are envious of those in positions of responsibility (it’s not about “power”), some are threatened by persons in authority (at times, rightly so since part of a leader’s job is to hold people accountable), some need to be perpetual victims, and some just like the attention that can come in finding a crowd dissatisfied with . . . name whatever.
Leadership is tough, and not for the thin-skinned.
While the critic can rant, cast aspersions, and display affected outrage, leaders don’t have the luxury of giving in to their emotions.
The day a leader displays anger or throws a tantrum is the day they’ve stopped being a leader.
This is part of the perversity of critics in the system, they know there’s little a leader can do to silence a critic.
Little, but not nothing.
One mantra among Bowen theory leaders is “be self-aware, self-regulate, and stay in touch.”
Meaning, monitor your anxiety and reactivity, function and behave out of your principles rather than your feelings, and, as hard as it may be, stay connected to your critics as best you can.
A helpful reminder from Theodore Roosevelt when one is assailed by critics:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the [one] who points out how the strong [leader] stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the [one] who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, great devotions; who spends [themselves] in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if [they] fail, at least fails while daring greatly, so that [their] place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”(1)
(1) Theodore Roosevelt, “Citizenship in a Republic,” speech given at the Sorbonne, Paris, April 23, 1910.
Israel Galindo is Associate Dean for Lifelong Learning at the Columbia Theological Seminary. He directs the Pastoral Excellence Program at Columbia seminary. He is the author of the bestseller, The Hidden Lives of Congregations (Alban), Perspectives on Congregational Leadership (Educational Consultants), and A Family Genogram Workbook (Educational Consultants), with Elaine Boomer & Don Reagan, and Leadership in Ministry: Bowen Theory in the Congregational Context.
His books on education include Academic Leadership: Practical Wisdom for Deans and Administartors, Mastering the Art of Instruction,The Craft of Christian Teaching (Judson), How to be the Best Christian Study Group Leader (Judson), and Planning for Christian Education Formation (Chalice Press).