Taking Steps Toward Leadership–responses to criticism

When someone openly criticizes a person, what kind of reaction are they expecting?  If it is a meek person, he will not respond, but he will plot his revenge.  If it is a wise person, he will consider the source of the criticism and the content and see if it has merit.  Then he will plot his revenge.  If it is a foolish person, he will immediately attack and denigrate the criticizer, dismiss the criticism, and boast of his superiority.  What is the common thread here?  It is not in the response, but in the fact that the criticism is done publicly.  Public criticism, merited or not, incites a fight or flight response from the person that is criticized.

In Toastmasters, each speech gets evaluated in public.  Why don’t they all run away?  Because the evaluators use a coaching approach, they first note what is good about the speech.  They couch their criticisms as suggestions for Next Time.  Next time, try to do it with note cards instead of reading off your lap top.  Next time speak to the back of the room.  Next time try this organizational approach to your speech.  This is followed by a compliment on how far the speaker has come in his development or what an interesting subject he chose to speak on, or his demeanor or delivery, but something nice.

I love Meryl Streep.  She has won 100’s of acting awards and is very well spoken.  Why she chose the Golden Globe Awards to make a political statement is beyond me.   She is an actress–a marvelous actress.  What makes her an expert in politics?  I don’t know how much she knows about foreign policy, domestic policy, economics, or military training in tactics and strategy, so I cannot gauge her familiarity with the requirements for the presidency.  She was being awarded for an acting performance in a movie.  Her comments should have been related to this performance.  I guess she chose to criticize President-elect Donald Trump in public.

What should his reaction have been?  He should have ignored it, snickered to himself about her inappropriate behavior and changed the channel.  He didn’t.  He made a condescending remark.  He twittered his immediate response.  It appeared to be a gut reaction, reflexive in character.  He called her an over rated actress.  What does that have to do with anything?  She was getting a life-time achievement award.  She’s an actress.  She is famous.  He’s a businessman and author.  He’s also famous.  The fact that he thinks she’s over rated is not pertinent to her speech.  What was he really saying?  “I thought she could have paused here and there and offered up a tear with an extreme close-up to improve that speech.”  She delivered it beautifully, so her acting was not in question.  He should have criticized the message, not the messenger. Famous people tend to think that they have incredible power of thought and persuasion, and that those of us who are not famous should believe and act on every word.

The reaction that was awful was the fact that in response to this playground name calling war, one of Streep’s supporters said that Hollywood is the glue that holds this country together.  Another Hollywood spokesperson proposed that all the Movie people–actors/actresses, directors, producers, gaffers, sound personnel, CGI artists… go on strike for a month.  Here’s the thing.  NO ONE would NOTICE!  Why?  Because it takes over a year to get a movie from start to screen.  Putting it off 1 month would not be noticed until the movie was 1 month late in 2018.  It would increase the cost of the movies and make them harder to come in under budget.  Movies would be canceled?  Not likely.  Those who are not headliners, you know, the ones in the credits that zip by so fast it blurs, would be out of work involuntarily and not able to pay their bills.  And what if they were on strike for a year?  No new movies?  Whatever would we do with ourselves!

What would we be missing?

  1. Stuff to gossip about.
  2. Expensive entertainment (cost of tickets and snacks to see something new)


We are a Leisure Centered Society.  Our worlds revolve around TV (fantasy), Movies (fantasy), Video Games (fantasy), and Facebook (virtual communication.)  100 years ago, leisure consisted of listening to or performing music, dancing, reading (fiction and nonfiction), conversation, and card games.  There wasn’t all that much time for leisure.  Now if our leisure industry goes on strike, the president has to resign?  How does that work?  How is it that our leisure controls our country?  People in the entertainment industry have a right to express themselves just like anyone else in the country.  But no one is going to televise what I say or what I think.  My words do not move people to contribute $80K to a cause in a single week.  On the other hand, I do not think that just because someone is famous, his or her opinion and perspective is more valid and important than mine either.

The point I want to make is that we should make sure the people we follow are actual leaders:  people going somewhere to do something important.  They should not be considered leaders just because they are famous and recognizable.  I believe, unfortunately, that we have elected a person to office only because he is famous.  I’m not sure how good a leader he will be when the main job of his chief of staff will be to hide the president’s private phone and have a file filled with excuses and apologies he can use to cover his boss’ mistakes.


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