How to Complain Like a Leader

Great leaders have burning complaints.

I wonder how many great endeavors began as great complaints. The United States of America, for example, began with great complaints. 

We know the name Martin Luther King Jr. because he voiced his complaint like a leader.

you never build the life you want by getting lost in things you don't want

3 ways to complain like a leader:

The difference between complaining like a leader and complaining like a loser is duration, focus, and orientation.

  1. Discuss problems long enough to understand them.
  2. Focus on solutions. You never build the life you want by getting lost in things you don’t want.
  3. Orient language and behavior toward positives. Say what you want, even if you began with complaints.

Find positive expression to negative complaints. The bigger your complaint, the greater the positive outcome you seek.


When you rule out complaining, you lose sight of your purpose.

Great complaints point to purpose. Have you noticed how some are deeply troubled by a problem and others don’t care? Your great complaint explains who you are.

You lose yourself when you silence your great complaint.


Great achievements are answers to great complaints. 

When you rule out complaining, you accept the status quo.

The leaderly way to hear complaints:

If you’re fortunate, you hear complaints. If you don’t hear complaints, you’re out of the loop.

  1. Encourage team members to explain their complaints.
  2. Listen – don’t solve. When you solve a complainers complaint, they complain about the solution.
  3. Ask four questions when teammates complain.
    • What’s the good you want for others? Solving self-seeking complaints invites more complaints. (This idea is for leaders on your team, not customers.)
    • What makes this important to you? Give leaders opportunity to explore motivations and connect with purpose.
    • What would you like to do about this today? Always identify simple behaviors. Create forward movement, not perfect solutions.
    • How can I help?

There’s more to this topic:

How might leaders get the most out of complaints, both theirs and team members’?

What dangers do you see?

What about perpetual complainers? 

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