Aristotle Yes, Virginia, there is an Internet snark out there who judged me in a passive-aggressive Facebook post. Not to worry. I’ve been judged on Twitter, in a blog post (or three), and God only knows where else as well. I can take it. As I am prone to say, if you don’t have haters, you’re not doing it right. Of course, upon discovery of the post, my first reaction is to want to protect and defend myself, but I have been well trained in leadership and I took a step back to self-reflect. I asked myself a few questions:

  • Was there any truth in what was posted?
  • What, if anything, did I contribute to the situation?
  • What could I have done differently?
  • Is there action for me to take to correct or amend the situation?

In all honesty, in this particular situation, we’re having a difference in expectations of what my role should be. I have rotated out of my leadership position and have comfortably taken my seat amongst the masses, leaving the leadership to the next elected group of people. The other person apparently does not agree with my decision. As leaders, we are oftentimes faced with making decisions that others might not agree with. When this happens, I truly believe that we are not responsible for not meeting the other person’s expectations. If we are deliberate in our course of actions, and we communicate that well, then we have done our part. Whether or not someone accepts that is up to them. The situation at hand reminds me of succession planning, especially as laid out in Jim Collins’ Good to Great. When we move out of leadership positions, we need to do so with grace and dignity, as well as purpose and intention. Have we identified and trained our replacements well? If so, when it is time for us to step aside we need to let the next generation of leaders take root and take hold. Will they always do it the way we would have done it? No. Will they handle every situation the way we would handle it? No. Will they change course, or make decisions with which we might not agree? Absolutely. And we need to let them do so. In the law firm we might see this when a member of the executive committee rotates off and picks up their private practice again full-time. Or when the managing partner hands the reins over to his or her successor and retires, or, better yet, stays and proceeds to take on the role of an emeritus leader. On a board of directors of a professional association, or a non-profit, it is when your term of service is over, and it is time to hand the decision making to the next group of directors, which can be so difficult due to time and passions invested. If handled correctly, businesses, firms, and associations thrive. If not, they stagger along, either finding their bearings, eventually, or failing all together. But getting back to the post about me. Upon examination I can say that while I am clear as to where I see my role today, I am not certain this person — and perhaps others as well within the group — shares my clarity, and that I can definitely amend. This is also a lesson about venting on the Internet. As I was settling down last night I was reading reviews on my upcoming vacation spot. One of the comments about our hotel that earned them a one star is that the person was attacked by mosquitoes. Really? That is the hotel’s fault? You’re going to a tropical location in July and you were shocked, just shocked, that there were bugs? When did it become the hotel’s job to protect your legs and arms? A simple Google search would let you know that you needed to pack and use bug spray. The review was so off that it did not alter my perceptions of the hotel, but made me look side-eyed at the reviewer. In short, as leaders we need to be clear and communicate well our new roles and responsibilities when we rotate out of leadership positions. In addition, just know that when you take to the Internet to criticize, proceed to do so with caution as it can say a lot more about you then the other person or company. Edited to update title. H/T Kevin O’Keefe.