Being a leader means that sometimes people are going to gossip about you and criticize your decisions. I wish I could just breezily say it doesn’t bother me, but I’d be lying. It does. I’ve spent nights lying in bed wondering, Why did she say that about me? Why did my decision make him so angry? Why didn’t they come straight to me with their criticisms instead of talking to everyone else?
Have you ever had a night like that? They make you toss and turn and question your decisions. These are the moments that breed insecurity and resentment.
Men, women, and “stupid” ideas
We know that both men and women can be leaders, and I really don’t think men and women are all that different in how they develop as leaders. They both need to learn the art of confident decision-making, vision-casting, and strong communication. But here’s where I have noticed a significant difference between men and women leaders: how they process criticism and gossip.
One day while on staff at a large church, I was sitting in a meeting where we were talking about an upcoming event. One of the men on the team shared an idea he had. Another man spoke up and literally said these words: “That’s the stupidest idea I’ve ever heard.” He then went on to share numerous reasons why he thought the idea was bad. It wasn’t my idea and it had nothing to do with me, but I was dying inside. The criticism made me incredibly uncomfortable, and I was miserable for the guy who had shared the idea. But when I looked over at him, he didn’t seem bothered at all. In fact, after the meeting, the two guys went to lunch together!1