How to Complain Like a Leader

Habitual complainers stink like babies with dirty diapers. But everyone who brings up difficult issues, problems, and concerns isn’t an energy sucking complainer.


3 types of complainers:

#1. Complainers who excuse their complaining because of the imperfection of others.

Some complainers never get their own hands dirty. Their skills, talents, and position give them permission to stand aloof from imperfect others. Arrogance is ‘too good’ to connect.

#2. Complainers who want others to change, but don’t think of changing themselves.

Chronic complaining is a feeble attempt to overcome feelings of helplessness. It’s easier to complain about others than to deal with yourself.

#3. Complainers with dirt under their nails.

Some complainers care deeply about making things better. They’re making positive contributions. Teams tolerate their complaining because they’re also contributing. 

How to complain like a leader:

  1. Take responsibility – without exception – to make everything you complain about better. The most terrifying responsibility is acknowledging that you contributed to the environment you’re complaining about. Standing aloof is blind arrogance.
  2. Never complain about things you can’t change.
    • The weather.
    • How quickly time passes.
    • The past, including the choices you made.
    • Other people’s behaviors or attitudes.
    • An unworthy person’s good fortune. Sure, they don’t deserve it. So what!
    • Your current circumstances.
  3. Face-forward when complaining. What do you want?
  4. Seek solutions when complaining. What are you solving?
  5. Be tougher on yourself than you are on others. Complain three times about yourself, every time you complain once about others, if you’re inclined to be a complainer. Make this a hard and fast rule.

Bonus: Offer three positives for every negative that comes out of your mouth, without exception.

What needs to be true for complaining to be an exercise in effective leadership?

**I just found a post I wrote last year: How to Complain Like a Leader. (I think I like the old one better. What about you?)