Facing Our Critics


Doesn’t it seem like everyone is a critic today? Perhaps it’s a response to the American Idol process where people have an opportunity to speak into someone’s performance or cast their “vote” to keep someone or send them home. Or, perhaps it’s the 24-hour news syndrome. As media outlets (especially news and sports networks) try to fill their time they include opinionated guests from multiple perspectives who criticize every angle of performance, decision making, and results.

It happens in companies and organizations as well. People criticize the boss, the boss criticizes his or her people, and the stakeholders criticize people and results. It makes you wonder how much time do employees and leaders spend defending themselves instead of focusing on the real priorities of the organization.

As leaders how do we deal with all of our critics?

I love what Donald T. Phillips wrote about Abraham Lincoln:

“In his four years as president, Lincoln endured all of the cruel antagonism and severe criticism directed at him. And the fact is, that he not only endured the slander but overcame it to secure victory in the Civil War and preserve a nation—a most amazing achievement. In the process, he also reorganized the American military system, expanded the limits of presidential authority, abolished slavery, and renewed the spirit of patriotism in America.”[1]

What helped Lincoln overcome his critics and succeed?

  • He ignored the attacks. He had no time to listen to petty and ridiculous slander.
  • He did not retaliate. Lincoln chose to press forward, not fall into the vindictive trap of retaliation. He chose to take the high road.
  • He kept his faith in the people. He believed his personal mission and he believed the people would support him. He didn’t blame and he didn’t sulk, He kept his faith in people.
  • He chose the best time to take a stand. Lincoln did stand up and defend himself especially when the accusations damaged the public’s view of his principles. Even when his personal principles were a minority opinion, he stood for them. He kept his integrity.[2]

Lincoln’s response to criticism should act as a compass point for any leader today. Find your core strengths and mission, stay focused on them and let the critics bay at the moon. Trust your people to execute your vision and be prepared to stand for your values, vision and principles.

[1] Donald T. Phillips, Lincoln on Leadership, (New York: Warner Books, 1992), 68

[2] Summarized from Lincoln on Leadership, 68–69.


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Trust is the winsome wedding of faith and hope.

Brennan Manning

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