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Dealing with praise and criticism as a leader

By | September 10, 2018

Altitude Advisory Partner Kristen Buik was fascinated by the thoughts of Glyn Davis at the AFR Higher Education Summit recently. Here’s what she learned.

Recently Glyn Davis gave a speech to the AFR Higher Education Summit that resonated with me greatly.

Davis was the Vice Chancellor at the University of Melbourne for 17 years, and although I have no aspirations to be VC, I have always held a keen interest in leadership and particularly in the strategies and lessons of great leaders. Those who know me know that I am dogged in my determination to enable people to be the best they can be, to get out of the way while people do their jobs and moreover to remove roadblocks for them.

That involves relationships, communication coupled with strategy, direction and clarity of vision.

Praise and criticism as a leader

While leaders in senior positions are doing what they do best, they can sometimes find themselves receiving praise they may not deserve and criticism that may be unwarranted.

As has been said, you just can’t please everyone all the time. Glyn’s speech touched on two key items that caused me to reflect.

Firstly, remember, it isn’t personal. Not taking things personally can be easier said than done – being a leader means you can be complimented and heckled for the same decision.

You will spend a lot of time praising and guiding, attributing credit where it belongs and celebrating the success of colleagues. You will not be thinking about yourself and nor will others be thinking about you. Remind yourself that it’s not personal.

The second point relates to the first – praise and gossip… avoid them both. In order to be effective in your role, Davis talks about the importance of never trading in ‘rumour, speculation or innuendo’.

It goes without saying that a person in a leadership role is best to not listen to gossip, let alone encourage it. It’s imperative that we pay no heed at all and stay the course, getting involved either way is futile.

Leadership can be seen as a thankless task or it can be seen as a privilege in shaping the future, all be it momentarily.

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