It is easy for people inside or outside of the organization to target a leader because the leader is visible and represents the organization and its authority. Sometimes there is a lot of behind-the-back complaining about a leader. While the complaints may be legitimate, this form of addressing them is not. It creates an atmosphere of diminished mutual respect, increased alienation, and lackluster implementation of strategy. When we encounter it we need to defend our leaders.
It is important for a group to remember its leader’s strengths, which sometimes are forgotten or taken for granted. Whatever flaws a leader may have, her strengths may be holding the organization together or contributing significantly to the organization’s purpose. A courageous follower who encounters chronic complaining challenges the group to remember the leader’s strengths. We can only give constructive feedback from a perspective of true regard for the individual.
If we are among the complainers, a hard examination of our own role may be in order. Complaining may be a way of projecting onto the leader our frustration at not being more successful in our efforts. We need to examine how we can assume more responsibility and be more effective.
Complaining should not be ignored or repressed. There is something to learn from it. The courageous follower urges complainers to package and deliver their communications in useful ways rather than filling the airwaves with discontent.