Leading As A Higher Or Lower Critic
In theological studies, the terms higher criticism and lower criticism come into play regarding the ancient texts of the Scriptures.
Simply stated (and a little over-simplified for this post), a higher critic will try to infuse their own meaning into a passage, while lower critics will try to form their understanding into the contextual words.
One tries to impart their will into the meaning (higher critic) of the text while the other (lower critic) will work their knowledge to what what written and preserved in the original words. Higher critics try to conform their understanding to what they know. Lower critics try to gain knowledge by incorporating what they discover. One is more willing to learn than the other.
So in essence, we have the higher critic looking down their nose and criticizing the words while the lower critic looking up to the words to gain a better understanding of what they mean.
A lower critic in leadership is someone who gathers facts, looks at everything in context, and as Steven Covey stated “Seeks first to understand”.Tweet
Now consider this application to our leadership.
If one is a higher critic in their leadership, they would typically look down at things, try to impart their understanding to come up with they would like to see in a situation.
Leaders who are higher critics tend to always have a pre-determined, incorrect and often negative opinion of people. They always find fault, things the person could do better, and why they don’t conform to their standards.
That perfect presentation that the client raved about wasn’t good enough. The report didn’t have enough “wow” factor. The work someone did is always being questioned because of an unknown standard that is never revealed.
Higher critics tend to be narcissists, authoritarians, and people who regard position over serving others. They usually don’t have the pulse on their people or culture, even if they “know everything that’s going on” because they are blinded by a pre-conceived notion of what things should be. These leaders don’t seek to learn or meet the needs of their people.
On the flip side, a lower critic in leadership is someone who gathers facts, looks at everything in context, and as Steven Covey stated “Seeks first to understand”.
Leaders of lower criticism look to find out why an employee’s performance is lagging. They attempt to gather the facts and make sure they give an objective, rather than emotional or subjective, assessment of what a particular situation is.
A leader of lower criticism is not a critical person like the higher critic is. They are an objective, inquisitive person who doesn’t question to poke holes, but to patch them.
It’s quite alright to expect excellence. The challenge is to criticize people into it, or find out the context and lead them up to a full understanding and competency of how to do it. Including leading yourself.
Determine to not be higher critical. Elevate others by seeking to understand the facts and your understanding to help everyone grow mutually.