“Don’t be distracted by criticism. Remember – the only taste of success some people have is when they take a bite out of you.”– Zig Ziglar
It’s been said that if you are not being criticized as a leader, you are not doing it right. Being held to higher standards than others is part of the leadership experience. This means being willing to be under the microscope by everyone – where your flaws can be seen more clearly. To be effective as a leader, one must be willing to get out there and thrive under the toughest circumstances, making the big decisions and sometimes facing criticism as a result.
Leadership is a multi-faceted involvement in the company, in customers, and in the community as a whole. Leaders must be transparent and they must be willing to take the good with the bad. They are the face of the organizations they work for, and if they “mess up” they do so with as much grace as possible.
This concept is uncomfortable for many leaders. Either they dream of being treated with so much respect that no one dares to criticize or question them ever, or they don’t anticipate the criticism that can come with making unpopular moves. But, stepping outside of certain perceived notions about leadership can be refreshing, and it can grow your career in ways you may not have dreamt of.
Criticism comes with the territory of being a leader. And it’s a unique opportunity to learn.
Being a leader means having to constantly push oneself to being better, smarter, and more capable. This is unchartered territory that’s meant to be uncomfortable. By default, some of the situations that leaders face on a daily basis create discomfort and fear. For example, the decision to fire an employee comes with no joy. But it can come with a lot of outside criticism. It’s just part of the process of stepping into your own as a leader.
Leaders can learn a lot from criticism. They can also use this as a teaching opportunity.
Consider that when a leader is conducting himself or herself, this is highly visible to the rest of the organization. Even a small action, like stopping to pick up a piece of trash on the floor to toss into a nearby can, may become a lesson for others. Or a random act of kindness shown to an employee who is going through a tough time can be noticed and produces a positive change in the team. Everything that a leader does, says, and decides has some impact on the learning of others.
The good thing is that criticism can be turned around as a lesson. The last time you made a mistake, how did this improve your skills as a leader? Use this to form the basis for a story that teaches important points to your employees. Make the story interesting, funny, and light – but have a clear message of redemption attached to it.
It’s always possible to turn criticism around into something positive. Positive actions. Positive interactions. Positive reactions. Be willing to be torn apart, but also be willing to rebuild. By using criticism well you can mentor and lead your people more effectively. Be human and allow others to see this side of you as a leader.