Shaming is Not a Leadership Strategy


In finding our way through the current challenges, you as a leader are going to have to make decisions that not everyone will agree with. Likewise, others will make decisions that you may find baffling, counterproductive, misguided or just flat out wrong. Frankly, that has always been the case. The weight of it may feel amplified right now because of strong opinions on all sides and the polarizing rhetoric that surrounds us in a 24/7 social media and television onslaught, but times like these are exactly when we need leaders the most . . . leaders who will help forge a path forward, not point fingers and cast blame . . . brave souls who recognize that shaming is not a leadership strategy.

Shaming — belitting a person, attacking their character, assigning ill intent to their actions — is a power play used to shut people down, not a strategy designed to move ideas forward. Leaders move ideas forward. They seek input and consider alternate views as a way to strengthen their decision-making. They are about stretching and growing, not attacking and defending. That is not to say you shouldn’t stand up for your ideals and push for what you think is right — you should. How you go about it, however, is what separates the leaders from the “loud voices”.

A few things to keep in mind about leading in challenging times:

  • Your desire to find a path forward does not insulate you from criticism or the possibility that some will try to shame you for your actions. Bold decisions often attract critics. How you choose to respond is far more a reflection on you than on the person offering the critique. Although it may seem counter-intuitive, the best way to diffuse an attack on you or your intent is with a transparent sharing of information.
  • You have the choice to bring the tone of the conversation down. The calmer you remain in the face of challenges, the better you are able to diffuse the high level of emotion that, if not contained, can overshadow the actual issue at hand. Walking away from or trying to ignore loud voices often results in an increase in their volume. Acknowledge the challenge in a calm and measured way, and then focus on options to move forward.
  • Your focus should be on the desired outcome, not on being “right.” Are you confident enough in the end goal to invite detractors to the table . . . to ask them to help you understand their perspective? The commitment to identifying common goals, and barriers to progress, demonstrates the type of strong leadership that engages people and opens up new avenues of possibility.

We’re all human. Even the most skilled leaders aren’t immune from the frustrations that come when emotions run high and opinions are deeply held. If today is one of those days, just remember . . . regardless of how tempting it might be, or how much you are encouraged by others, shaming is not a leadership strategy.

And in case you haven’t heard it lately, thanks for your leadership.

We need it now more than ever.

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