Leadership sucks (you can quote me on that.) When God taps the shoulder of a person for the purpose of leading a ministry, you can be sure they are in for a ride. Leadership is about taking people forward toward a vision of the future. Forward movement always involves change. Leading change makes lightning rods out of leaders – and that sucks.
Check out this quote I came across while reading the book, Leadership On The Line (by Ronald A. Heifetz and Marty Linsky):
“To lead is to live dangerously because when leadership counts, when you lead people through difficult change, you challenge what people hold dear – their daily habits, tools, loyalties, and ways of thinking – with nothing more to offer perhaps than possibility…People push back when you disturb the personal and institutional equilibrium they know. And people resist in all kinds of creative and unexpected ways that can get you taken out of the game…”
People will tell you what they think of your leadership. This is a good thing. It’s a whole lot worse to assume silence equals agreement, when in fact it doesn’t. You don’t want to be the “emperor without clothes.” But even though it’s good to hear from those you lead, it’s still not easy to take criticism. It can drive you places you don’t want to go – you lean into burnout and depression. You can’t stop the criticism. But you can do something about it when it comes at you.
A Framework You Can Use
To avoid burnout and depression in ministry leadership, you need to know how to take criticism. Here is a quote and 6 steps on how to take criticism. It’s from a piece called, “How to Take Constructive Criticism Like a Champ” (by Lifehacker):
“Constructive criticism is often the only way we learn about our weaknesses—without it we can’t improve. When we’re defensive, instead of accepting and gracious, we run the risk of missing out on this important insight.”
1) Stop your first reaction
2) Remember the benefit of getting feedback
3) Listen for understanding
4) Say thank you
5) Ask questions to deconstruct the feedback
6) Request time to follow-up
This post is designed to give you a framework the next time you are faced by a critic of your leadership. Employ it and you will remain the leader God tapped you on the shoulder to be. Oh, and by the way, here’s a great piece on how to GIVE feedback to others: How To Give Constructive Criticism in 6 Steps