“Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise.” (Proverbs 19:20)
You can’t please everyone. No matter how hard you might try, there will always be someone that will tell you how to properly raise your children and live your life. There will always be a customer that will criticize your company, product, and vision. Sometimes, even your spouse, friend, or co-worker may find fault with your efforts!
No matter who you are or what you do, that there will always be someone who disapproves of your actions or thinks they know more than you do. Before you can adequately prepare an effective defense, such critics find a way to drill deep and deflate even the hardiest of hearts. Their criticism can be so severe that it can create self-doubt. Tragically, such negativity can actually create personal and professional breakdowns by derailing the locomotives of vision and endless possibility.
How do entrepreneurs face and overcome such criticism when it reaches their ears? Like everything else, successful leaders take time to prepare for inevitable moments of reproach and disapproval. They do so by training themselves to withstand the strong onslaughts of criticism by developing six personal leadership qualities: (a) courage, (b) transparency, (c) composure, (d) honesty, (e) diplomacy, and (f) humility.
Courage. Mature leaders never let their critics see them cower or run for cover. Adopting a “bunker mentality” never hinders but essentially feeds the warped desires of habitual detractors. Unfortunately, avoidance does not negate negativity but actually provides critics free rein to characterize their targets in any way they like — demon, demagogue, or do-nothing! By courageously yet honestly confronting criticism, leaders forcefully demonstrate that they are not afraid to face the consequence of verifiable truth.
Transparency. Successful business owners are never reticent to broadcast criticism – even if it means publicly communicating failure as well as victory. In so doing, they demonstrate professional transparency, and show their willingness to engage those who disagree. Such a posture of clarity challenges company leaders and employees to be on their best behavior. Mistakes are never be concealed but always exposed and rectified.
Composure. Mature leaders breathe deeply before responding to criticism. Even when violently confronted to their face, stable business owners never match the tone or volume of an opponent’s tongue. When critics raise their voice, leaders lower and retain their level composure. They speak deliberately and with a sense of calm because they realize that the more they control their emotions, the stronger they appear.
Honesty. Honesty is one of the primary characteristics of successful leadership. Sometimes, criticism is not a harmful incident but a valuable opportunity to discern overlooked failings. As such, mature leaders confront criticism with a sense of earnestness. In so doing they demonstrate their eager desire to continually absorb, grow and develop. They are not defensive, but act with honest confidence, knowing that the truly wise are always willing to admit and learn from their mistakes.
Diplomacy. While the spotlight may appear to be on the one being criticized, the real strain is often focused on the integrity of the critic. Through the use of skillful diplomacy, leaders can demonstrate the nobility of self-control by tactful remaining confident, personable and suave. They smile and never smirk at their detractors. Because they are secure in knowing who they are, successful leaders have developed the ability to gracefully listen to negativity while simultaneously filtering such comments through the lens of healthy self-assessment.
Humility. Humility is the foundation stone of the truly secure. While criticism may rain like golf-ball sized hailstones upon them and their enterprises, mature leaders remain secure under the sturdy canopy of sincere humility. Such a sheltering canopy, however, is not the product of cunning communication strategies or skillfully crafted legalese. True humility is not a business operating expense but a vital quality of personal character that is spiritually nurtured over time.
In the end, humility is the stalk from which the solid branches of courage, transparency, composure, honesty, and diplomacy find their source. I can think of no better strategy for successfully facing up to criticism!