In “Reflections of the Psalms” (chapter 2), C.S. Lewis writes:
Did we pretend to be ‘hurt’ in our sensitive and tender feelings (fine natures like ours are so vulnerable) when envy, ungratified vanity, or thwarted self-will was our real problem? Such tactics often succeed. The other parties give in. They give in not because they don’t know what is really wrong with us, but because they have long known it only too well, and that sleeping dog can be roused, that skeleton brought out of its cupboard, only at the cost of imperilling their whole relationship with us. It needs surgery which they know we will never face. And so we win; by cheating. But the unfairness is very deeply felt. Indeed what is commonly called ‘sensitiveness’ is the most powerful engine of domestic tyranny, sometimes a lifelong tyranny. How we should deal with it in others I am not sure, but we should be merciless to its first appearances in ourselves.
As a leader one of the biggest hurdles I experience is dealing with “sensitive” people. The kind of people that if you say something that needs to be said in the wrong way, or neglect to say or do something that they feel should be done or said they pull out their “wounded” card and go all “woe is me” on you. Having these kind of people on your team kills productivity and forward momentum. But that’s not the topic of this post. No, what about you? As a leader, are you this person? How do you know?
- Are you constantly worried about what people will think about you?
- Do you get jealous when others you know get the raise or recognition you want?
- Do you secretly gloat when a well-known leader in that big organization down the road fails in some way?
- Do you mope and pout a lot when you don’t get your way?
- Do you find it hard to take criticism? Do you always have an excuse when someone points out an area you need to improve in?
- Do you think the world is out to get you?
- Are you peeved when someone doesn’t give you the recognition you feel you deserve?
- Do you always have an idea for how a leader in authority over you could do things better (and can’t believe no one else agrees!)?
- Is there a list of wrongs done to you stored away somewhere in your memory that you pull up when someone does something you don’t like?
- Do you keep a scorecard on how you compare to others on your team or in your organization?
- Do you keep a tally of the accolades you receive from others not as a source of encouragement but as a cache of ammo to use against others who would dare to challenge your viewpoint, the way you do something, or the choices you make?
- Are you rarely wrong?
- When someone you know walks by you without greeting you or looking at you do you immediately assume they have some problem with you?
- Do you always have to have the last word?
If you answer yes then as Lewis says, be merciless to it! Root it out. Get rid of it. Stop being so dang sensitive! Otherwise you will suck the life out of what you lead.