I have learned a lot about leadership from TK. TK has been a leader in my life, in some capacity or another, since I was 16 (that’s 12 years if you are mathematically challenged). One thing I have learned from him is that leaders must be critical thinkers, but not critical people. As I work with students (and let’s be honest, with people in general), I find that most people don’t really know the difference.
A critical thinker
- Recognizes that things are never perfect
- Identifies the areas that can improve
- Builds plans and strategies to accomplish that improvement
- Is willing to think outside of cultural or organizational norms
- Isn’t afraid to try new things
- Isn’t afraid to kill traditions that aren’t working
- Offers and accepts criticism
Leaders must be critical thinkers, or they aren’t leading. They are merely managing. However, it can be much easier to slip into being a critical person.
A critical person
- Recognizes things aren’t perfect
- Points out the things that aren’t working
- Doesn’t have plan for improvement
- May have a plan for improvement, but never follows through
- Loves to complain
- Loves to blame-shift
- Points out how much greener the grass is everywhere else
- Points out how terrible everyone else is at their job
- Is perpetually infected with the ‘woe-is-me’ syndrome, because nothing can ever get better
Critical people are debbie downers. They may be seeing the same things critical people are seeing, but they aren’t doing anything about it. These people aren’t leaders. They are poison.
You see, criticism must be dignifed. We must be factual, we must be realistic, we must be honest, but at the same time… we are builders.
If your criticism doesn’t build or change anything, it’s time for some self-evaluation.
Are you a critical person? Or a critical thinker?
… Leader or poison?