The Winning Voice

Best in class communication techniques from Michael Kelly

Seek out ‘loving critics’

“Pity the leader caught between unloving critics and uncritical lovers”. This is quote by John Gardner,  Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare in U.S. President Lyndon Johnson’s administration. Jim Kouzes shared the quote in a great podcast interview I recently listened to. (you can access the podcast under Kouzes’s name at,

If you’re a leader (Kouzes argues that all people are leaders in the wider sense of the word) aim to seek out ‘loving critics’. These are people who give you honest feedback about where you can grow, about your sales presentations, interactions, speech communication etc. – but do so with ‘love’ and genuine care for your growth.

Avoid unloving critics. That is, people who just criticize you with no ‘love’ or encouragement. Avoid uncritical lovers. That is, people who blindly praise whatever you do with no feedback on where you can grow.

The ‘how to apply’ for this post:

  1. Consider a range of people in your network with whom you regularly interact. Optimally these people are often present with you in meetings or are in your audiences when you present and lead meetings.
  2. Choose a person who you think might be a good candidate for your ‘loving critic’.
  3. Approach the person and present the idea.
  4. Offer, as appropriate, to be their loving critic.

One Comment

  • John Groarke

    October 12, 2012, 9:27 am

    Great post Michael. I didn’t seek you out … but I have greatly appreciated your ‘critiques’, given with great sensitivity, over the years!

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