In his leadership podcast, Craig Groeschel recently addressed how effective leaders handle criticism.  One of the most powerful statements made is for us to lead from deep and grounded confidence.

This past year has been tough on the trees in our yard.  Last summer we came home from church one Sunday to find a large maple tree leaning against our front doorstep.  This winter, an ice storm took down a tree next to our driveway.  And, last week, a tornado touched down about a mile away and took a big limb out of a large tree in our backyard.

Fortunately, there was no severe damage and no one was hurt.  (Well, other than my 25-year-old chainsaw that has finally breathed its last.)  But I find similarities in the two trees that we lost.

The first one came down in a heavy wind. But it snapped off just a few inches under the surface of the ground.  We investigated it, and found that the ground around it was saturated and the tree roots had rotted.  Later we discovered that the tree was located next to a water main that had a leak, and the ground had been saturated there for some time.  Apparently, this led to the roots rotting.

The second tree came down after one of those typical Kentucky winter storms that leave a layer of ice on everything above ground.  The tree in question was an oddly shaped tree that had apparently been planted in a cockeyed manner, about 30 degrees off of straight.  I have no idea why it was done this way, but the trunk came out of the ground and then angled straight up.  The roots of the tree came up out of the ground in the opposite direction from the trunk.  The weight of the ice on the tree on that angled portion of the trunk was too much, and it snapped right at that point of weakness.

Stately trees require solid roots

What do both of these have in common?  Their roots of course.  A tree can stand beautifully tall and stately, but with poor roots, it can be brought down in a second.  In fact, as I write this, my sister-in-law has a crew working on removing a huge pine tree that came down after its roots were damaged putting in a french drain system.

It’s important for us to understand our purpose in life.  As leaders, we need to “know our why”, in the words of Simon Sinek.  Challenges come, whether in the form of criticism, poor sales or a bad quarter.  When they do, we need to rely on our higher purpose to help us survive the rough days. Who you are and what you stand for is more important than temporary criticism or temporary setbacks.

Groeschel says that “if we live for praise, we suffer and die from a lack of it”.  By placing our confidence in our higher purpose, we can keep criticism from taking root in our hearts. He also reminds us that we are not as good as our fans think, nor as bad as our critics do.

Do you know your higher purpose?  Have you put it into words?  If not, that’s my challenge to you.  Take some time to find your why.  Put it into words.  And then allow those words to establish deep and strong roots in your heart, so you can overcome the challenges of the day.  Only then can you lead from deep and grounded confidence.