Recently, I was on a leadership retreat, and in a moment of vulnerability a few of us disclosed that it had been years since we could describe our everyday inner life with a sense of ongoing joy. It wasn't that life was bad; in fact it was good. It wasn't that there was no laughter and good times. There was lots of that. It was just that that inner sense of joy had been missing for a long time. The next morning it hit me that the joy was missing because criticism abounded.
Have you lost your joy and creativity? If so, you may want to take a moment and evaluate if you are being critical and judgmental. You may have fleeting moments of feeling happy or even a night of laughter, but are they short-lived because that inner critic starts chattering again?
Joy and criticism cannot co-exist. Harsh judgment of others and constant criticism are not found in a truly joyful happy person. When you choose to be judgmental and criticize, you turn in your joy card.
Joy or Judgment
Is your leadership style marked by joy or judgment?
Now, you know me well enough to know I am not talking about overlooking things that are blatantly wrong or hurtful. I certainly believe in exercising a critical mind to find error and identify things that are wrong. We should have keen discernment and call out injustice, bad behavior, and falseness.
What I am talking about is letting the power and responsibility of leadership morph into thinking that you are godlike, that your way is the way the world and others should operate, and that everyone else is an idiot and just don't "get it."
When you set yourself up as the one who knows best, well, that may be fine for a while but it's ultimately lonely. You will not find joy in that self-protected state, and you certainly won't bring joy… to anyone!
Your greatest strength of being uber smart, driven, and visionary, may tempt you to use that talent to judge others and hold them in contempt for not living up to your standard. (What if you could turn that incredible talent into a tool to lead with confidence and find joy in watching others operate in their unique gifts as you guide them to places they never dreamed?)
Joy Energizes; Guilt Drags
Secure and confident people have a radiant, contagious peace and calmness that allows them to find joy in the journey without a constant need to judge for their own sense of self. Insecure people judge others, so that they can find a moment of relief from their inner critic.
Unfortunately, those who criticize themselves will in turn criticize others. Why? They have no joy to give, no vitality, no greatness because nothing is ever good enough.
Some people see that relentless "never-good-enough" attitude as their reason for success. That is a lie. I believe you can have a healthy contentment and joy that actually creates more energy and vision to lead forward. Joy energizes a purpose and vision that pulls you forward into what you were created to be and do. In contrast, guilt drags you along with a ball and chain, telling you you're still not quite good enough yet.
Instead of beating yourself and others up with guilt and judgment to follow you, you can lead with joy, which comes from a confidence and curiosity of what's ahead.
S.T.O.P. Your Inner Critic
I invite you to an honest evaluation of your leadership style that starts in your inner person. Stop justifying your cynical, critical spirit. Swap it with joy. The negative inner critic does not provide a good return on your energy. It makes you look small and insecure. You have so much to offer. Don't settle for this! Say to yourself, "It's not worth turning in my joy card."
When you start talking or thinking in a judgmental way of yourself or of others, remember to S.T.O.P.!