Leadership is a formidable challenge. Leading a group of people to a future destination can be tiring and often overwhelming. And, while leading in good times is hard enough, leading while under attack can be (pardon my language) hell.
Every leader will face attacks. They can come in the form of questioning the organization’s direction or its perceived slowness to adapt to change, or challenges to the leader’s effectiveness.
Attacks can become personal when critics toss daggers in the form of character assassination or subtle hints about the leader’s personal behavior.
Although criticism is never a welcome companion, it can prove helpful. Criticism is the manure that helps strengthen the leader. In fact, real leadership surfaces during attacks, as it did with David. In Psalm 5, the “man after God’s own heart” provides wisdom and insights into how leaders should handle attacks.
1. Present your case effectively and with passion
In verse 3, David states, “In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.” While presenting his case to the God who knew all things, David wasn’t afraid to share his side of the story.
Many companies and good leaders have been sidetracked by an employee’s attack, but effective leaders continue to lead during difficulty. Those who wish to lead well will acknowledge the attack and present their case effectively, and with passion. Leaders should respond quickly, with as much detail as possible, or they may never move past the attack.
2. Pursue the truth without being distracted
Leadership is about truth. In verses 5-6, David writes: “The arrogant cannot stand in your presence. You hate all who do wrong; you destroy those who tell lies.” David felt passionate about truth because he knew that life and leadership spring from its authenticity. Only leaders who enjoy the confidence of their team can lead well, and to earn such confidence they must elevate truth.
Leaders who wish to recover from attacks must do all that they can to uncover the truth of a situation, but without letting the attacker make them lose focus. They must remember the critical leadership axiom: Someone is leading your organization; if it is not you, it is someone else.
3. Remain consistent with your habits and vision
An unexpected accusation can pose a major disruption to the leader and the business. Defending one’s self against accusations can be time-consuming, so leaders under attack must focus on consistency if they are to continue leading. A leader’s positive habits can be a welcome friend during difficult times; consistency in actions demonstrates the leader’s value and earns credibility.
David stayed consistent even when under attack. In verse 7 he speaks about this quality: “But I, by your great love, can come into your house; in reverence, I bow down toward your holy temple.” David had developed the habit of coming before the Lord long before he faced any criticisms of his leadership.
4. Pardon the attacks of others through kindness
Leaders have the responsibility to take the high ground in dealing with others, something David speaks to in verse 11. He wasn’t going to let others’ sins become his, declaring: “But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you.”
Leadership expert John Maxwell says that “hurting people hurt people.” Many times a leader gets hurt by someone because that person is themselves hurting. The leader must set the example for their organization: kindness is always stronger than wrath or a vigorous defense. When leaders respond to attacks with kindness, they show themselves to be worthy of their title.
Leaders will always face attacks. The effective leader knows how to prepare and perform in times of accusations and personal attacks. Leaders should lead in such a way that they are beyond reproach. Their reputation, history, and fruit of their behavior should be evident to all so that no one would even question the ability of the leader to lead well.