The sword of leadership is criticism, embrace it!

22 Sep

It is your birthday today and your significant other get you a nicely wrapped package with a note “Happy Birthday, With love X”. This gesture clarifies the appreciation and love that this person has for you. Likewise, leadership comes with its own packages, albeit not neat. Frustrating moments, tears, joys and criticism are part of what is in the leadership bag. In other times, a package with a note “My dear leader, with due respect, you suck and seriously so” adorn your ears. What do you do when you are encountered with such words? Do you take this criticism constructively  and fix your inequities or do you go on a defensive mode?

I am a young fellow, very young to have not witnessed Nelson Mandela’s release from Robben Island. In the past I have been a member of few societies on campus because it is in these societies that you drink wine [sic] and meet dazzling and radiantly beautiful ladies. However, moments later you realise that wine and cheese do not matter any more, and real issues needs to be confronted and addressed if circumstances permit. It is in this stage that problems arise and your character as a society leader gets tested. Senior members will hold you accountable to the very last word as promised by your annual plan of action.

At this hour wine glasses are broken and bottles empty. Fortunately enough the corkscrew is still intact – it is the human mind that is tinkered with fermented fruit juice. You, as a society leader might believe that the members’ questions or any utterances they throw are informed by the irrationality of fruity water they just consumed.

Those you lead will always have grievances with the manner in which you conduct business.They will seek clarity and question whatever looks suspicious and more often than not doing so while criticizing you. The emotional intelligence required by this turnouts from your team or members is that you embrace whatever criticism that might come your way.

My membership in these campus societies taught me that there will always be opinion leaders – often mistaken as echo-chambers – who will criticize you and question every line item on the financial report. In most cases their thoughts are valuable and emotionally charged. You need to keep calm, shut your mouth and open your ears when you are being criticized. When you have heard these “echo-chambers” you will be a better and effective leader. In fact keep these people at bay, never let them sail away from your harbour for they are the most important resource in your society.

You hear something along this lines “You are a pretty crappy leader”, take this constructively,  gather your thoughts, down a glass of water and give a calm response that is not driven by emotions!

The sword of leadership is criticism and your shield humility. Embrace it and do eat a humble pie should situations dictate!


Posted by on September 22, 2012 in Leadership


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2 responses to “The sword of leadership is criticism, embrace it!

  1. Bafedile Mafologele

    September 24, 2012 at 9:41 pm

    It has been a while since I read your blog and I see you have been at it again…The Malema of wordpress. Just joking. You make a valid point and having been in a leadership position and also being COO of a group, I can share my experience.

    The truth is in corporate SA, there is something called an ego and it unfortunately often stifles learning. People are more concerned about it than they are concerned about the actual work and results that they need to deliver. Funny enough, if you embrace these echo-chambers, you can learn a thing or two from them. I’ve always managed to get the best out of all the teams I have worked with and I do not have a magic formula. I simply listen and make everyone feel their input is extra important. I encourage criticism by being the first to criticise myself and admit where I am wrong, in so doing, I make my team members realise that I do not think I know it and they could be right in their thinking.

    The key though lies in making people believe in a bigger purpose. You take the focus away from yourself and make it about the company or whatever purpose and say FOR THIS CAUSE we will take and give punches. This will ensure we get to our destinations. Hope that makes sense. Good article young man!!

    • Dumi-rocks

      September 26, 2012 at 11:00 pm

      Thanks. It is often difficult to humble yourself and say you do not know something. There is a lot to be learnt in your comment!

      “Malema of wordpress” ~ What a compliment!


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