Receiving criticism is unpleasant, but a leadership inevitability. Criticism is the confirmation of great leadership, which often lives long after a leaders death.

It’s hard for most people to recognise when you shine because they think they will be left in the dark.

As a CEO, business owner or a public figure, when you put yourself out far enough ahead of the crowd or the shadow of your comfort-zone, you become a target for the negative, mean, merciless, unloveable, unreasonable, jealous, hateful, and afraid -critics.

Some people cannot stomach your success. Jealous people, for instance, want you to stay on the same plane with them or lower. It is hard for some people to see you rise above them, and their criticism of you is a confirmation of this fact.

This sentiment is wittily worded in the following pointed remark:


“To avoid criticism, say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.”

A blatant impossibility particularly when selfless, patriotic conviction drives your heart. “The dread of criticism is the death of genius.” —William Gilmore Simms

Leaders who choose to stand tall also choose to be under the microscope of the critic, the uncomfortable place where you stand translucent, for all to see and recklessly judge you.
If you are anything like me, you have put your everything into a “your dream,” just to face Setbacks? Criticism?  You will understand that criticism in leadership go hand in hand.


So it is important to learn to handle criticism constructively.


(See related article: EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE)


The question, however, remains, “How does one deal with it?” The unforgettable Abraham Lincoln said,


“He has a right to criticise, who has the heart to help.”

In my experience, the biggest critics are most unhelpful, uninvolved and unsupportive. Their mouths are the only active part of their anatomy.  Spectators are often the most talented critics.


Here are Four Fundamental Principles that Great Leaders of Today Utilise When Criticised:


1. Never Allow Criticism to Deny Your Success


It is painful discouraging when one negative attitude can erase the public’s memory from a solid track record of your past success or goodness.

During these moments stubbornly decide that you would not let others define your future success.


2. Respond to the Suggestions, not the Tone


As the senior pastor of a wonderful Church, over the years, I’ve encountered people who have tried to “help,” me.

They often begin saying things like, “I’m going to tell you something, that you need to listen to for your own good.” I’ve discovered that when they tell me, I need to listen to them for my own good they never seem to have anything good to tell me!

Their organisational altitude was never high enough to deal with the situation beyond their pigeon-view-position.

Yet, these conversations sometimes have helped me realise that what I need to hear most is what I want to hear the least, which often hid behind their harsh tone of inexperience and indifferences.

“Criticism, like rain, should be gentle enough to nourish a man’s growth without destroying his roots.” Frank A. Clark

As I learnt to separate their suggestions from their tone, I was able to learn so much more about the organisation and myself.

By the way, all these critics left one by one; they were not true friends to the organisation or me.


3. Value Constructive Criticism


The problems is that pretty often, we only value praise and we should. When people speak kind words we feel happy. When people criticise we feel opposite -miserable!

On the other hand, if we only received insincere praise and false flattery, how would we ever make progress?

If we wish to improve and develop we should invite constructive criticism and appreciate their suggestions.

The truth shall make you free or make you mad.


4. Ignore Destructive Criticism


Sometimes we are criticised with no justification. I have noticed this kind of criticism comes from people:

who are jealous,
who have a psychological need to downplay others to make themselves feel better,
who are arrogant,
who are fearful,
who may love you (parents, friends, coach, pastor,)
who want you to change,
who were criticised as children,
who are tough on themselves,
who despise you because of your goals,
who want to demonstrate their power,
who want to demonstrate their knowledge,
who want to deny their flaws,
who want to deny their mistakes.

This is a painful experience. We deal with criticism easily which is justified. When this happens you have two options: remain aloof or ignore it altogether.

I have always had the ability to ignore false critiques because it is like an ant trying to harm an elephant. If you remain silent and detached you give the criticism no more energy. If you feel the necessity of fighting it – in a way, you give it more attention than it deserves.

By remaining silent, we maintain a dignity that others will come to respect.

You don’t have to attend every argument to which you are invited.

There are battles worth showing up for and fighting and battles that are not worth your appearance.


How will you handle it differently? Which point may have helped you better understand how to deal with criticism?  Please leave a positive comment below and share with a friend.