Over the years I have spoken with many leaders who have been wounded by critics. The story is usually the same: they ask to meet with me during a time of reflection on their life and leadership. After some small talk and a normal dialogue on leadership, we get to the heart of the matter. Sometimes that means I see how exhausted they are, and sometimes they end up in tears. It’s easy to spot a wounded leader.
5 Signs of a Wounded Leader:
- They avoid people.
When a wounded leader is hurt deeply, they avoid everyone possible. They are quick to “escape” conversations with others.
- They are on the defensive.
A wounded leader doesn’t let people in. They keep their guard up and are ready to defend their position on any issue in question.
- They assume everyone is talking about them.
Sometimes leaders don’t expect criticism, and when it comes from people you consider as friends, it’s a tough pill to swallow. To these leaders it feels like they don’t know who is for them and who is against them. As a result, they assume that there are critics in every group and that everyone is talking about them.
- They anticipate critics and conflict.
Some leaders start their day expecting conflict, a wounded leader is combat ready. Their shield is up and sword drawn. They have an unhealthy perspective that the whole world is against them, and so they are battle-ready on most days.
- They are exhausted.
Wounded leaders are physically, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted. They feel alone and uncertain of the future. These leaders feel like everyone is depending on their leadership and they don’t want to let anyone down, especially their family.
Here are five immediate actions if you are a wounded leader:
- Share the hurt with a few trusted friends and family.
First, you need a support group to pray for you, encourage you, and support you. You can’t lead alone, and you need the time and space to work through it.
- Surround yourself with wise counsel.
You need one or two leaders removed from the situation who can give a balanced view and share from their own experience. Wise counsel will speak truth to you in love.
- Clarify the “why” of change.
Change is hard for people but, if the reason for the change is clear and compelling, the critics usually fade or at least their criticism is minimized based on the excitement, energy, and momentum of the leader’s vision for the future. The why of change needs to be shared with your team often and consistently.
- Engage with people.
In a time of change, more engagement is needed not less. Being out with your people during a time of change, formally and informally, allows people to ask questions and gain confidence in the direction you are taking your team.
- Assume the best of people.
Not everyone is against you. They really aren’t. In a time of change, you will always have a certain number of people who are against the change, some that wondered what took so long, but most of the people are neutral. This neutral group needs you to show up with vision, energy, and commitment to the future. They will go with you but they may have questions, need a little time but they aren’t against you.
Wounds need healing. Unhealed places in our lives will cause us to be less than our potential. Often, unhealed wounds cause us to hurt others unintentionally. If you are a wounded leader, seek help to heal. Your family and your organization needs you.Wounds need healing. Unhealed places in our lives will cause us to be less than our potential. Click To Tweet
“When I became embittered and my innermost being was wounded, I was stupid and didn’t understand; I was an unthinking animal toward You. Yet I am always with You; You hold my right hand. You guide me with Your counsel, and afterward You will take me up in glory. Who do I have in heaven but You? And I desire nothing on earth but You. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart, my portion forever.” Psalms 73:21-26
How do you heal or help others heal from the wounds of leadership?