Kendall L. Stewart, MD, MBA, DLFAPA
Why are leaders hesitant to do this?
When leaders are attacked, it is normal to become defensive. Leaders believe they are well-intentioned, bright people who are trying to do the right thing. When others accuse them of being short-sighted, muddle-headed and worse, no reasonable person should expect those leaders to remain detached, calm and gratefully receptive to such stinging attacks.
What is the case for doing it anyway?
But that is what people expect their leaders to do. Whether you realized it or not, that is exactly what you signed up for when you accepted a leadership position. People don’t care how you feel. They care how they feel. They expect you to ignore your feelings and attend to theirs. The best leaders recognize this and throttle their natural defensiveness in their efforts to manage perceptions more effectively.
How can you do it?
Face the reality that this is your job. If you keep on trying to prop up your self-esteem by the longed-for admiration of those you are leading, you are headed for early burnout.
Recognize your defensiveness. These reactions are strong and commanding. When you come under fire for the first year or so, you will have already returned fire before you realize you are feeling defensive.
Practice. Ask your colleagues to help you prepare. Ask them to give you their best shots. As a leader, you’ve got to learn to absorb some bruising hits and keep on leading.
How have you managed perceptions effectively by controlling your own defensiveness?