Knocking Down Walls

by  Georgia Feiste  |  Self Leadership

I have been running across the topic of judgment in my reading, and in conversations, with a number of people over the last several days.  When this type of thing happens repetitively, I know I need to spend some time thinking about the topic and how it applies to leadership.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines judgment as the process of forming an opinion or evaluation by discerning and comparing.

Judgment in both forms, approval and disapproval, can suck the life right out of the person being judged.   As you move throughout your childhood, you often build walls around those parts of yourself that have been criticized, hiding the wholeness of who you are in an effort to gain approval from those you love.  You forget what it is like to take initiative and have a viewpoint.  You “go with the flow”, even when it creates dissonance within you to do so.  This behavior gets carried into adulthood, and often is the difference between success and failure, imitator/follower and visionary/ leader.

How, you ask, can approval be detrimental ?  It is true that it doesn’t hurt, at least not as much as criticism does.  But it can subtly destroy your ability to be who you really are.  Once you get a taste of that heady feeling you receive when you are praised for your behavior, you begin striving for more.  It becomes addictive.  You lose sight of your true value, and begin to create your personal value assessment based upon what others praise you for doing or being.

Approval is not to be depended upon.  Just when you think you have it nailed, it can be taken away by the people you want most to receive it from – even yourself.  This striving requires an enormous amount of energy, taking away from your ability to be an authentic and valuable leader, at home or at work.

Do you catch yourself considering the impression your words and behaviors create?  How your presentation affected your audience?  Do you engage in activities only to get approval?  Do you edit what you say – creating a chasm between your thoughts and the words you use – participating in conversation only to please others?  Sometimes these activities are so pervasive, you no longer know if you are in integrity with who you really are.

The challenge to becoming a truly great leader is in recognizing and loving the parts and pieces of who you are, and according the same to your co-workers and family, in all directions.   It means allowing everyone around you to share their thoughts and ideas, giving full measure to the dialogue that ensues.  It means developing trust in yourself to know the right thing to do and say in any situation, and trusting those around you to do the same.  It means living and leading from your strengths, gifts and values, and requesting that your co-workers and family do so as well.  It implies acceptance of the diversity of others, and gratitude for their insights.

As you begin to knock down the walls created by judgment you may find, as I have, that what I perceived to be my greatest weakness has turned out in the long run be my greatest strength.   Other things, of which I was proud, have proven to be among my greatest weaknesses.   I am thankful I have lived long enough to recognize these external and internal judgments, and to reap the benefits of my failures.

What walls have you created due to self-judgment or the judgment of others?

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What People Are Saying

Julie Kay  |  09 Dec 2010  |  Reply

Thanks for a very thought provoking post. As a leadership coach I certainly agree that knowing ourselves and showing ourselves with skill is fundamental to great leadership whilst at the same time your thoughts raise questions for me such as:

When raising children how do we balance withholding judgement with teaching right from wrong.
When we get to know our selves, and choose how we want to behave, don’t we largely do this through feedback of one kind or another, including other peoples responses?

For example, If someone is upset by something we say, don’t we use that feedback (that judgement that what we said was unacceptable or hurtful) to decide how we will conduct ourselves in future?


Georgia Feiste  |  09 Dec 2010  |  Reply

All very good questions, Julie. And, I don’t think this is an absolute, but something to consider.

My thoughts on your questions:

I think it is in how we talk to our children, and what we pronounce “judgment” on. For example, I have a great-niece who showed promise as a wonderful artist at the age of 8, who has been judged on being a “dreamer, impractical, wasting time”. On the other hand, I have worked with a client who was encouraged to pursue her talents as a child – and she is pursuing the use of her talents in fine arts from both a practical and “impractical” side, and loving every minute of her life. As far as teaching right from wrong – sitting down and having a conversation with our children about choices is very effective, especially when we do it at their level. You can talk abut the options, and help them see the consequences, without pronouncing anything “right” or “wrong”.

As adults, you use feedback to re-look at the choice that you made, discern the truth, and determine if what you did was harmful. I can recall giving loving feedback and upsetting people. Sometimes it is their issue, and you need to walk away. If what you did was harmful, consider it a lesson learned, and make a decision as to whether you need to converse further with the person who is upset.

Love the conversation!


William Powell  |  09 Dec 2010  |  Reply

Loved this Georgia. Kind of hit me between the eyes in some respects, but just called me back to a place of greater awareness. It’s so easy to get caught up in doing life that you don’t take time to reflect on life.

Thanks for the reminder in your no nonsense, but gracious, way.


Georgia Feiste  |  09 Dec 2010  |  Reply

Thanks, William. I appreciate the comments. Life can grab us right into the whirlwind of activity and keep us there, unless we take the time to slide into the silence in the eye of the storm to allow ourselves to see what is real and what isn’t. I think it’s safe to say that we have all been there, and sometimes forget.


Sonia Di Maulo  |  13 Dec 2010  |  Reply


Beautiful post because it allowed me to understand a new side of myself through a very self-reflexive exercise (I love exercises). Here is your exercise:

1. List your perceived greatest weaknesses.
2. For each one, identify how it has turned out to be your greatest strength.
3. List the things you are proud of.
4. For each one, identify how it could be your greatest weakness.

It’s the kind of exercise that allows for greater self-awareness that helps us discover new ways, new advantages, and new opportunities to lead others in a more holistic way.

Thanks, Georgia for this great gift.


Georgia Feiste  |  13 Dec 2010  |  Reply

Sonia – you are so welcome. And thank you for really putting it to the test! That was wonderful to see.

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