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  • Writer's pictureRichard Parrish

How Critics Make You A Better Leader



“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” - Proverbs 27:17 (ESV)

Sometimes we find ourselves in an unexpected or unwanted leadership role. We didn’t pursue or ask for the position. But unplanned events beyond our control place us there.


A project director suddenly falls ill, and you’re asked to lead the campaign to completion. Or you serve on a team that’s become stuck. Your desire to help the company encourages you to lead from the back of the room with delicate, discreet, and wise engagement. A leader resigns and takes a position with another company, and you’re asked to fill the gap.


We didn’t ask to be the leader but somehow found ourselves in a leadership role. It doesn’t take long until you discover that leadership is not immune to opposition and criticism. So how does one exude confidence when others criticize and complain?


Demonstrating healthy confidence amid criticism requires humility. Inspiring confidence with sincere humility turns criticism into conversations and critics into collaborators. Confidence with humility produces certainty while showing we’re teachable. The combination energizes synergy.


The wisdom of Proverbs reminds us that “iron sharpens iron.” If criticisms, disputes, and discord are to shape (and sharpen) us, we must engage in discussions and willingly listen to suggestions and ideas.


Emotionally insecure leaders sabotage their ability by isolating or avoiding the development of meaningful relationships. Walls to protect ourselves from competitive or complaining people only encourage us to become suspicious.


In The Eight Paradoxes of Great Leadership, Tim Elmore reminds us that suspicious leaders see critics as a threat, a thorn, or someone who can help them thrive.


To see our critic as an asset, someone worthy to help us improve and flourish, requires us to listen humbly. We may not always agree. But a humble willingness to listen opens us (and our critic) to see how we can sharpen each other to be more effective.

“If the iron is blunt, and one does not sharpen the edge, he must use more strength, but wisdom helps one to succeed.” -Ecclesiastes 10:10 (ESV)

Ecclesiastes illustrates that it’s wise to sharpen the ax before splitting wood. Wood splitting is hard work. It’s even more difficult with a dull ax.


Thanks for your leadership.


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