How Leaders Complain

by  Mike Henry  |  Resources

In my new favorite book titled Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon, one of the chapters is about complaining. The chapter “Quit Picking Fights and Go Make Something.” regards a quote his wife told him one night when he was up late on Twitter trying to correct the “stupid stuff out there.”

Three things to remember about How Leaders Complain

  1. Remember anger can be a creative energy. Most of us do our best work right after what Bill Hybels referred to in Holy Discontent as the “Popeye moment;” when we’ve “had all [we] can stands and [we] can’t stands no more.” We were made to solve problems. Which problems make you angry?
  2. Remember anger can be very destructive and counter-creative. We have more than enough selfish anger. Anger that’s other-focused and directed at righting a wrong on others can be very socially beneficial. Anger can generate destructive instincts or creative ones. Which way will you direct your anger?
  3. Remember there is a “best” way to complain. When you’re angry you have a choice.  You can criticize, lash out, or try to inflict pain. There are countless ways to destroy with your anger. Or you can choose to encourage others to change. Discipline and patience and perseverance are required to help the world choose to change.

“But instead of wasting my anger on complaining or lashing out at people, I try to channel it into my writing and my drawing.” Austin Kleon

Be the Change

I’m tired of bad leadership. I’m tired of trying to make a positive difference when it seems like the most people would rather I spend my energy benefitting them. Bosses vary expectations. Leaders create solutions that benefit themselves. Let’s not even mention politics or government. Too many people fail to look objectively at the outcome they’d like me to assist. Why do you want me to spend my money? If it’s just so you can make yours, forget it.

Great leaders give the world something to compare. Great leadership is the only answer to self-focused, minority-oriented, me-first, hierarchical leadership. Don’t let the world draw you into the fight. Complain by providing an alternative. Right now. Choose to invest in your people. Choose to share and make the world better. Give everyone on the fence something to compare to the problem.

“Complain about the way other people make software by making software. Andre Torrez from the book Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon.

Want to solve the leadership problem in this world? Make leaders better by being a better leader. Anything less cements the problem. The right way to complain is to be the solution… be the change you want to see in the world.

How will you complain about bad leadership in the next week? Will you share your ideas below? Will you come back and tell us how you did?


What’s Next? Please leave a comment below to join the conversation…

About The Author

Articles By mike-henry
Chief Instigator (Founder) of Lead Change Group and VP of IT for a mid sized technology company. Passionate about character-based leadership and making a positive difference.  »  View Profile

What People Are Saying

Ralph Dopping  |  14 May 2012  |  Reply

Mike, great post and great book. I have read Austin’s book a few times now. I really love the way you corrolated leadership qualities from his experiences. Nicely done. Yes, I will be back to to tell you how I did this week.

Mike Henry  |  14 May 2012  |  Reply

Thanks for the comment Ralph. I appreciate these newer, lower-cost quick read books that are designed to communicate a quick few ideas. This book got me thinking in a number of places. It was a good use of some of my time and $6 on a Sunday afternoon.

Cynthia J Stewart  |  15 May 2012  |  Reply

Great reflections on how to use anger constructively, Mike. Anger actually has a high level of energy associated with it. All of us have seen the effects of someone’s anger gone out of control. And that is the anti-thesis of leadership. Leaders harness all that (angry) energy into making a real difference. And they get angry about the things that really matter, like injustice. Their focus isn’t so much about what happened to themselves as what happened to others. They are driven to make things better.

Mike Henry  |  15 May 2012  |  Reply

I fully agree. And there’s a big difference between making things better and just talking about it. Thanks for the comment!

Mark Silet  |  17 May 2012  |  Reply

“Be the change you want to see in the world.” This is one of my favorite quotes as it helps me to remember to stop complaining about what everyone else is doing and to focus on something I have some control over – what I do. Our energy is definitely better spent by becoming or working on solutions or to use your words “providing alternatives” than simply getting angry or frustrated.

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