7 Strategies for Leaders to Be Less Self-Critical

It’s a fact that everyone fails. And yet we tend to be our own worst critics. While taking responsibility for our actions is a healthy practice, dwelling on our mistakes is dysfunctional. It can hold us back from helping us achieve our full potential and unnecessarily poison the body, mind and spirit. So instead of lying awake in bed, stewing all night about how you blew it, create a learning opportunity by searching for the lessons in your mistakes.

Cutting yourself some slack can be easier said than done. It takes willingness, self-discipline and the ability to “let go” of past transgressions. Use these 5 strategies:

1)   “Confess” to a confidant. If you’ve made a mistake or failed in some way, sometimes just discussing it with an unbiased confidant or mentor helps. Not only does sharing our humanity with others make problems easier to bare, but it also opens the doors to fresh feedback, insights, solace and even solutions.

2)   Stop replaying the scene. After we’ve made a mistake or done something wrong, we often repeatedly replay the scene in our minds. While processing the event is healthy, obsessing over it is not. It creates undue stress, undermining mental and physical health. So always try to notice when the mind’s movie projector starts rolling and find a positive distraction — quick! Shift your thoughts elsewhere: exercise, meditate, breathe deeply, call a buddy, get up and grab a glass of water — just do something to stop that vicious, cyclical thinking.

3)   Forgive yourself. Create an affirmation around your innate goodness because this, too, will enable you to move on. Use the mantra, “I forgive myself for letting down the team. I am a capable leader.”

4)   Don’t start the blame game. One of the traps that’s easy to fall into is blaming others for our problems — and this is the exact opposite of being overly self-critical. When we do this, we risk earning a reputation for being someone who can’t admit our own mistakes. This trait puts our credibility at risk, while courageously admitting and taking ownership of wrongs builds respect. So, as you work to avoid being too self-critical, also avoid the common temptation to blame others.

5)   Love the lesson. When it comes to being critical of yourself, remember, your weaknesses are opportunities for building strength and smarts. Every failure is a chance to learn a lesson. Make lemons out of lemonade by discovering that lesson, taking corrective action, and then celebrating your victories and successes.

6)   Go a little easy on others. We all know the people who are hardest on themselves are often harsh on those surrounding them. Curb your critical tendencies toward others. Think before you speak, be a little gentler and quickly forgive others.

7)   Lead by example. When you start taking a less critical approach — be it with yourself and the team that surrounds you — the impact on others will be infectious, and they’ll be less harsh on themselves, each other and even you, too.


​ The Disciplined Leader

What do the best leaders have in common? The answer is one word: Discipline. A disciplined leader is one who identifies and focuses on the Vital Few: the 20% of activities that will drive 80% of the results. Learn More

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