"Students, Not Critics"

Guiding Leadership Principles As part of our commitment at OFC to be principle driven leaders, I have made a list of more than 75 principles that guide our actions and decisions.  “Students, Not Critics,” is #73 on the list and is a principle handed down by Andy Stanley.  

I recently heard Andy Stanley recount how as a youth pastor it was frustrating to have older leadership look down their noses at him when he presented ministry initiatives.  Now that he is the “older leadership” he has not forgotten those moments and is committed to not repeating them.  His answer to the dilemma is to make sure he is a student of ministry and not a critic.  It’s a natural thing for leaders to enter any environment with a critical eye.  There are a variety of reasons it happens.  Here are a few:

  1. It’s an occupational hazard.  We are so used to analyzing our own environments; we naturally analyze everyone else’s.  As a consequence, our own preferences often pollute our evaluations.
  2.  It’s natural.  Natural defenses set in. It seems humans have a default mechanism of criticism. The reality is that whoever you are, whatever you’ve done, whatever work God has done in your heart, you are still human.  The sooner you recognize and remember that, the easier it gets to say “I’m sorry” and live in reality.
  3. Ego. Here’s a hard truth you may as well accept.  You have one. An ego, I mean.  If you’re used to leading on the “cutting edge” there will be a natural resistance to change when you discover someone else is cutting the edge.  Ouch.
  4. You just want to help.  Okay.  Let’s go with that one.  Do other leaders, yourself, and the people following a big favor, and learn how to lead with encouragement instead of criticism.

Of course there is a time and a place for evaluation.  Stanley was not speaking of a leadership review, but the knee jerk, default, cynical, arrogant, almost gleeful reactions that gut creativity and sabotage growth.

I’ve lived long enough to know I can learn something from everyone around me.  If history teaches us anything; it teaches if it weren’t for the mistakes made early on, big discoveries would never have occurred.  So, instead of criticizing, learn.

By the way, if you ever want to find the one spot in the house you missed when you painted, invite a few friends and relatives in to celebrate the makeover with you.  There’s always one in every family. I just don’t want it to be me.