I’m not certain if these facts are correct, but for this BLOG’s sake, let’s call it 5%.
There are 5% of people in the world that believe:
In life, there will always be 5% of people that will be critics & crazies.
In leadership, there will also be critics and crazies. When we love and lead humans, there will always be 5% that will not follow us – that will be our biggest critics & crazies.
If you are a teacher, 5% of your students will not listen.
If you are a doctor, 5% of your patients won’t trust you.
If you are in sales, 5% of customers won’t like you.
If you are a manager, 5% of your team won’t follow you.
And if you are a leader, 5% of your organization will be your critics & crazies.
I wrote about Frank DeAngelis, former principal of Columbine High School, in my last book, The Heart-Led-Leader. Frank’s story is truly inspiring. No principal in any public or private school has loved their students and teachers like Frank. And after the Columbine tragedy on April 20, 1999, he loved them even more. Frank was able to rebuild that broken school into a beacon of love. If you walk the halls of Columbine High School today, you would never believe that 12 students and one teacher were murdered there 18 years ago. But Frank had his critics & crazies. He had his 5%. They hated him. Even had multiple death threats on his life. Wherever there is beacon of love, there will always be a handful who only know how to hate.
I also wrote about Burl Cain, warden at Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola. For twenty-one years Burl led the largest maximum-security prison in the United States. Many of the 6,300 in-mates are serving life sentences and will never be released. When Warden Cain took over in 1995, Angola was known as the “Alcatraz of the South” – the most dangerous and bloodiest prison in America. Burl had his share of critics & crazies. When he told the 6,300 in-mates at Angola that his vision was to change Angola into one of the safest prisons in America, I’m sure there were 5% (or more) that did not believe it could be done. And Burl Cain proved them all wrong.
When I became CEO & President of Up with People back in 2005, I inherited an organization once nearly bankrupt financially and surely bankrupt of vision for the 21stcentury. I had to make hard decisions to save the company – close an office in Japan, change the name of the company from WorldSmart back to Up with People, let go of staff and re-launch a new viable business model. For nearly four years I traveled the world visiting hundreds of cities trying to re-engage our 20,000 alumni and thousands of sponsors, host families and community partners. I had my fair share of critics & crazies. I heard from them daily.
When I look back at my tenure as CEO of Up with People, I have one regret. I let the 5% of critics & crazies taint my heart. I let them steal my joy. And I let them steer my eyes away from the 95% of people that believed in our vision.
Frank and Burl were better leaders. They did not allow their 5% of critics & crazies to steer them away from leading the 95% who wanted change – who wanted to make an impact on the world. And today, Columbine High School and Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, are both extraordinary success stories because of it.
Leaders must run with the 95% and not get dragged down by the 5%. They must open their hearts to learn from their critics & crazies, but not be defined by them.
We will always have critics & crazies in our lives. It is human nature. We can’t freeze them, like Walt Disney, or send them to the moon – but we can make sure they don’t steal our joy, derail our vision or taint our hearts.