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5 Right and Wrong Ways to Deal with Criticism

Criticism accompanies leadership. The only way to avoid criticism is to do nothing. If a leader is taking an organization somewhere, and really even if he or she isn’t, someone will criticize his or her efforts. The way a leader responds to criticism says much about the maturity of the leader and the quality of his or her leadership.

Here are 5 wrong ways to respond to criticism:

1. Finding fault with the critic

Instead of admitting there might be validity to the criticism, many leaders immediately attempt to discredit the person offering it.

2. Blaming others

Many leaders realize the criticism may be valid, but they aren’t willing to accept personal responsibility, so they pass it along to others.

3. Throwing back criticism 

Often, a leader will receive criticism, and instead of analyzing whether there is validity or not, the leader begins to criticize other organizations or leaders.

4. Ignoring an opportunity to learn 

This is a big one because criticism can be a great teaching tool. It needs a filter, and the person and circumstances need to be taken into consideration, but with every criticism rests an opportunity to learn something positive for the organization or about the leader.

5. Appeasing 

Many leaders are so fearful of conflict that they attempt to satisfy all critics, even if they never intend to follow through or make changes because of the criticism. If there is no merit to criticism, then don’t act like there is merit.

What else would you add as a wrong way to respond to criticism?

I’ve been guilty of all of these at one time or another. Awareness is half the battle. Identifying the wrong ways to respond to criticism and working to correct this in your leadership is part of growing as a leader.

Let’s be honest! Criticism can hurt. No one enjoys hearing something negative about themselves or finding out that something you do isn’t perceived as wonderful by others as you hoped it would be. Criticism, however, is a part of leadership and, if handled correctly, doesn’t have to be a bad part of leadership. There is usually something to be learned from all criticism. Allowing criticism to work for you rather than against you is a key to maturing as a leader.

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Ron Edmondson is a pastor and church leader passionate about planting churches, helping established churches thrive, and assisting pastors and those in ministry think through leadership, strategy and life. Ron has over 20 years business experience, mostly as a self-employed business owner, and he's been helping churches grow vocationally for over 10 years.