Every leader will be criticized. The reality is I speak to over 3,000 people every weekend + I write and live a very public life. Fair and unfair criticism is part of the deal.
Recently I had a couple of people make some strong statements against me. One of them is James Sundquist from Rock Salt Publishing. He has sent emails out about me. I am endeavoring to have a one on one meeting with him.
So–how does a leader respond when someone gives you what seems to be unfair and unfounded criticism? Here is what I do….
God speaks through people. In Scripture He spoke through a jackass. Sometimes people give the criticism correctly, sometimes they don’t. My response is to listen as much as possible. One of my core values is to be a lifetime learner. I have found listening to people is essential to personal growth. I admit sometimes this is difficult because the person is such an idiot. But, nevertheless, the art of listening is fundamental to leadership.
Is this true? Is there any part of this I need to process? Writing my thoughts down helps me clarify the take aways, process the comments, strengthens my leadership skills and hear the voice of God.
3–I search Scripture.
I compare my actions, motives and the issue with Scripture. The Bible is my final authority. I am not saying the person needs a scripture for every talking point. I am saying I must rely on Scripture to shape every decision I make. Example, some have criticized me saying, ”Your church doesn’t have a choir so you are not a New Testament church.”….Really? You may or may not be right if we should do choir, but you are wrong to say or imply Scripture says a church must have a choir. (BTW-I actually like choirs however for practical reasons we don’t have one currently.)
4–I walk under authority.
Depending on the criticism, I ask my elders, core pastors and even involved Network leaders if I have to. I believe every leader needs to have authority they walk under (BTW–if the person giving you criticism doesn’t walk under authority, this is a dangerous sign. They may have something good to say, but ultimately if they don’t walk under authority they lose credibility in my book.)
Ok, I am normal. I have a few trusted people in my life I feel comfortable venting to. They know I am venting. They know this is how I work through stuff like this. These are people who make sure I don’t let bitterness get in my soul. These are the people who know me so well–that if I start venting from the pulpit they will call me on it. (there is a difference between venting and preaching…another blog :))
6–I talk with my wife.
Jana hears from God. She knows me. She can help me process truth vs. stupid stuff.
7–I endeavor to meet with the person one on one.
It always amazes me how critics don’t like this. So many critics are cowards who hide behind email, blogging, and the “prophet” card. I may be old-fashioned–but criticism should be in person–one on one. BTW–if you have something to say to your pastor–don’t do it in the lobby on a Sunday or a Saturday night email. Call the office and set up an appointment. Do it with humility and character.
8–I learn and move on.
I consider every critique an opportunity to learn and grow. Just like any book–I don’t agree with all of it..but I can learn.