Armchair Critics

Here’s a great article from Paul Andrew who is Founder of The Leadership Coach™. He is a Keynote Speaker and Management Consultant based in New York (and he also happens to be an Aussie with a great passion for life).

Through the years of leading people experience has taught me that there will always be armchair critics, the only question is how I will respond to them.

While I welcome constructive feedback and critical thinking from those who share my values, I have no time at all for the armchair critic.

Armchair critics are the backseat drivers of this world. Rather than do something they prefer to criticise those who do. They can usually be found in the company of other critics picking apart what people do and say, from the safety of their comfort zone.

I heard someone say recently that, “Critics are like the eunuchs in a harem – they know what you’re supposed to do, but can’t do it themselves.” Sadly for all the impotence in their actions, their words still have the power to discourage and distract you if you let them.

Truth be told, I’ve let the critics get to me too many times over the years. I got defensive. I stewed on their accusations. I got my eye off the ball and focused on the hecklers. And as long as I focused on the critics in the grandstand I couldn’t play the game on the field to the best of my ability.

I’m determined to stay open to the right opinions… the voices of those who know and believe in me.. the perspective of people working alongside me. In fact I’m in very a dangerous place as a leader if no-one can question me.

We see journalists, police officers and presidents alike weighing the value of information that comes to them on the basis of the credibility of the source themselves. A reliable source who is close to the events is a precious resource. But if the source is without credibility and proximity it’s unlikely anyone will even read their “information” let alone act on it.

So leaders, let’s develop the habit of weighing criticism according to its source before we react. And at the same time, let’s cultivate a circle of trusted advisors around us who can speak truth from a proven track record and a shared vision.

Leave the armchair critic to his armchair. It’s called a La-Z-Boy for a reason.

“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt (Speech at the Sorbonne, Paris, April 23, 1910)