Have you ever been criticized because of how God made you?
When someone's personality gets him into trouble, in a way you can't blame him, but nevertheless he suffers the consequences of that nature. God allows us to see and experience the effects of our faults and uses this revelation to mature us.
My past successes and abilities can't free me from my den of critics; in fact, they may be what got me there in the first place. For example, when I'm in meetings with people who thrive on conflict, my reserved nature – which usually serves me well – actually invites their attacks. Since they know I won't raise my voice, they feel enabled, even encouraged, to passionately defend their position. When I respond with short comments or silence, they press in, sure I won't counter with equal fervor.
When you are who you are, you will have problems. If you're too smart, you'll eventually get criticized for your aloofness. If you're too engaged with your people, you'll be labeled a micromanager. Think you're uber-creative? Wait a little while, and a jealous coworker will shoot down your work behind your back.
Take Daniel. He served three successive kings in Babylon, the greatest kingdom on earth. For decades he solved royal riddles, interpreted the kings' dreams, and served in their courts.
When King Darius wanted to place Daniel over the whole kingdom, the other administrators had had it with this teacher's pet. They convinced the king to institute a decree requiring everyone in the land to worship him and him alone, knowing full well that Daniel's devotion to his God would condemn him. Darius realized too late that his friend Daniel would not bow down, and therefore would require a death sentence.
Daniel's #1 strength – loyalty – earned him his night with the lions. But that same loyalty to his God fired up his faith and enabled him to persevere. His response to the unjust treatment illustrates two best practices any leader can adopt when the lions start calling.
Daniel remained true to his idealistic self. Who do you aspire to be? In the heat of the moment, Daniel lived out who he wanted to be: a loyal follower of the Lord. Though he had ample time to change the object of his worship and save himself from execution, he had decided long ago that God alone deserved his loyalty. No king deserved nor would ever earn the same dedication. He was willing to risk his life for the sake of this commitment.
The leader who won't compromise values or integrity will ultimately be more satisfied with his career and life.
Daniel didn't resist those who manipulated his downfall. Why didn't he demand an audience with the king to protest the ridiculous law? Because he knew the politics of the palace. The decree could not be reversed, even by the king himself.
Is there someone that always debates you or exposes your faults? If you're an executive, chances are someone has an agenda contrary to yours, thinks you're not cut out for your job, wants your job, or wishes you would quit breathing their air.
How can you effectively resist this kind of incessant pressure without damaging your relationships or reputation?
The answer is to walk forward with the poise of Daniel. When we keep our composure, our antagonists may back off or even posture as friends, thinking we're stronger than they thought. Sometimes, surviving the lions' den strengthens us, and people think twice about pushing us in again.
I often end up in the same spot again, tested in some new way. Each instance is a struggle of emotion, pride, and perseverance that collectively serve to mature me. I hope I'm becoming become a better leader as a result.
Daniel's greatest strength – his extreme sense of loyalty – was his enemy's chosen point of attack. But this attack only proved his loyalty to God was unshakeable, and resulted not only in his deliverance from the den, but a promotion in the palace.
He is author of Leading from the Lions' Den: Leadership Principles from Every Book of the Bible, (B&H Publishing, 2010). His Twitter account is @TomRHarper.