How Leaders Should Handle Public Criticism

A few years ago, a client of mine, Dennis,* the CEO of a financial services institution, walked into his executive team meeting and declared, “Anyone else have any darts they want to throw? I seem to be the dartboard of the week.”

The week prior, a lower-level executive in Dennis’s company had been fired for an ethics violation, giving the company’s otherwise upstanding reputation a black eye. Shocked and outraged by what had happened, employees took aim at the top in a spate of social media, email, and internal platform condemnations of Dennis for “letting it happen” or “turning a blind eye.” (Neither of which were true.)

Dennis would hardly be alone in his experience of public scorn from employees. The last few years have wrought a wave of employee activism and public critiques of leaders. Elon Musk’s recent experiences at Twitter may be an extreme case, but the swift public scolding from employees and the world indicates that when it comes…

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This article was written by Ron Carucci and originally published on hbr.org