Community & Government

Facing Criticism

Bill Clinton

Lesson time 08:57 min

It doesn’t always have to be lonely at the top. Discover the mindset President Clinton developed to excel in one of the most scrutinized leadership positions in human history.

Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars

Topics include: Take Criticism Seriously, Not Personally · Ignore Personal Attacks · Don’t Make Loneliness a Virtue


[MUSIC PLAYING] - Many wise people have said a version of that if you want to lead any endeavor, you have to find a way to take criticism seriously but not personally. And in politics, the easiest thing to do, particularly when you know good and well that a lot of people who are criticizing you don't really care about the issue. They're just trying to cut you a new one so they'll-- you'll lose, and they'll win. So it's easy to take criticism personally and block the ability to take it seriously. Benjamin Franklin said our enemies are our friends, for they show us our faults. It's amazing how liberating it is to welcome criticism, to say, if you find something I'm doing wrong, tell me, and we'll fix it. And if I can't fix it, we'll get somebody else here who can. Then you're free. What else are they going to say? It's a liberating thing. And I think that the whole world is clogged every day, literally clogged, backed up like a drain, by people in positions of power and influence who can't take criticism seriously. We should learn to be able to toughen up a little bit and actually listen to each other. You want to always be energizing the people on your team. Always be encouraging them to take prudent risks and to realize that the admission of error or living with the consequences of it, as long as you were going in the right direction, is the quickest way to keep making progress. A real leader will try to maximize human potential-- everybody's-- and will try to give people who've been kind of in the wilderness a way back, will be running a constant restoration and reformation process. To do that, you have to have great discipline and take criticism seriously but not personally. [MUSIC PLAYING] The most difficult thing about knowing whether to take a problem personally or seriously is that when you're angry, you're already taking it personally. And it becomes almost impossible to take seriously. You might think on the one hand, well, if I'm-- if my feelings are hurt and I'm angry or whatever, it just shows you that there must be something to it. But that's not necessarily true. And here's what I would say. I would say, if someone essentially says you're an inferior person-- not that you made a mistake as a leader, but there's something wrong with you-- what I steeled myself to do when I was president is not to read it. And I said, you know, I don't want to read anything that just attacks me personally and tells everybody what a sorry person I am. I trust the American people to make up their own mind about that. I said, however, if anybody, no matter how much you may dislike them, criticizes one of my policies and what I'm doing, I want to know what they say. I want to know what they say. Because even if they don't wish us well, even if they're our opponent, they may be right about this. And we need to constantly-- we need to have a constant re-evaluation system on policies that at least that could be...

About the Instructor

Commander in chief from 1993 to 2001, Bill Clinton has spent a lifetime navigating complex challenges and bridging deep divides. Now the 42nd president of the United States teaches you how to be an effective, empathetic leader. Learn how to assemble, inspire, and empower diverse teams, mediate conflict, manage criticism—and create a personal framework to guide you and your team toward a shared vision.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

Bill Clinton

Drawing from his career in politics, President Bill Clinton teaches you how to inspire diverse teams, manage criticism, and mediate conflict.

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