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7 Ways a Leader Avoids Criticism

By October 7, 2019Leadership

The title is a little misleading. The only way I know of to avoid criticism as a leader –

Is to not be a leader.

Many in leadership positions default to what I call “The Safe Zone” to attempt avoiding criticism. (But it’s not really that safe.)

Here are 7 ways they attempt to avoid criticism:

  • Make excuses for their shortcomings
  • Dodge bullets by hiding behind others
  • Pass blame and never own a mistake
  • Stop taking risks
  • Stifle their dreams and the dreams of others
  • Limit their leadership exposure to other people
  • Control information and don’t allow anyone else to make decisions

Some leaders have figured out how to avoid criticism.

But seriously,

Are they really even leading?

(And make no mistake, for this too they will eventually invite criticism. We might as well give people a legitimate reason.)

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Ron Edmondson

Author Ron Edmondson

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Join the discussion 14 Comments

  • It's true Ron!

    When criticized by the customer, if we defend yourself to him, quickly explaining precisely why the policy is the way it is, why the product is the way it is, you are pushing the criticizer away because you're telling them they're wrong about their opinion. And they might indeed be wrong, but it's certainly not going to encourage more feedback. And, we might lose business in future.

    On the other hand, if some leader up the hierarchy follow up with the customer with specific acknowledgment and thanks, then we can multiply the benefits.

  • Jenni Baier says:

    Your stuff is always so thought provoking, and I loved this one. But I also resemble this one a bit 🙂 And I think if we're honest, we've all been guilty of playing criticism dodgeball at one time or another.

    But this one especially grabbed me: "They pass the blame and never own a mistake."

    I'd suggest that there's an even more insidious form of not owning a mistake: Accepting or absorbing the blame to diffuse a situation, but not really owning it — not really believing that the fault lies with them — and as a result, not really making any substantive changes that would prevent the situation from recurring.

  • Ben Steele says:

    Ron, do you mind elaborating on "limiting leadership exposure"? I'm not sure what that means.

    • ronedmondson says:

      It probably is related to some of the others, but my thought there focuses on the word exposure. They less “exposed” a person is as a leader, the less criticism. Basically they lead small and few initiatives, as much under the radar as possible. If the task might put them in a situation where they could easily be criticized, they avoid it.Here's an example. Some leaders know there are topics, which automatically are controversial, so they stay away from those topics, they never initiate change in those areas, they live with the status quo, because they don't want the leadership exposure.Make sense?

      • Ben Steele says:

        Yes it does, thanks for clarifying. I can think of a few guys I have admired for their willingness to tackle those sensitive topics or projects.

  • love number 3–pass the blame and don't admit mistakes

  • Ron,

    I used to say on our elder board that "Leadership through risk aversion inspires no one."

    In the business world, playing it safe and not taking risks may be an option for an established. large organization that can afford to tread water…but they will sink sooner or later.

    In a small or start up company, it is a fatal flaw to avoid risk. I just watched a potentially great company go under because of one leader's aversion to risk. Amazing thing in a start up. Lesson: Be careful who you are yoked to even in business.