Being attacked is a regular occurrence in leadership. Someone is always upset and blames leadership for their frustration. Sometimes it's justified. Other times its not. Either way, leaders must avoid the natural reaction to defend and embrace the opportunity to analyze the attack.
Let's walk through a typical scenario. Someone is negatively impacted by a decision from the leader or from an organization procedure. They obviously become upset or frustrated by the decision; therefore, a natural response is to complain about the decision, the organization and/or the leader.
Sometimes the complaint is grounded in understanding, and sometimes it is due to a lack of information. Obviously, when the complaint is grounded in complete understanding, the leader knows that something needs to be addressed. But when the complaint is completely unfounded, it is natural for the leader to become defensive toward the complainant.
When there is a lack of information, this leads others within the organization to develop negative assumptions. Negative assumptions lead to negative beliefs that the leader approves of the current situation. If the person has enough confidence in the leader, he will confront the leader, and leaders must recognize the strength in this action. If someone is willing to confront the leader, that means that they believe in the leader and his ability to listen and resolve difficult issues.
Leaders must avoid the temptation to defend themselves and seek to understand the animosity. By seeking to clarify, leaders can find communication gaps, inefficient procedures or systemic breakdown. Through analysis of the complaint to a deeper and impersonal level, leaders can close frustrational gaps and ultimately build stronger relationships between the complainer and the organization.
In the end attacks are rarely about the leader, but a frustration about the organizational environment. When leaders come to a place where they embrace this mindset, they can truly begin to do what they were hired to do, lead.