How Frustration – yes, Frustration – can be the Transformation Catalyst for Authentic Leaders

How Frustration – Yes, Frustration – Can Be the Transformation Catalyst for Authentic Leaders

“What I resist, persists.”

How annoying, but true!

When I first heard this adage, while sitting in a circle of other leaders seeking a better life, I wanted to scream.  After all, who wants to hear that the solution is actually embracing what frustrates us?  But then I sat with it a bit, and I realized that by working through whatever was bothering me, I would indeed be free because that barrier would melt away.

When I wanted to avoid a person, I started looking at – and working through – the shame and inadequacy within me.  Consequently, not only did I have fewer resentments around me, but my client list has also expanded.  When I wanted to hide from a work opportunity several notches above where I was, I applied myself instead, studying part of the new content every day.  In doing so, not only did I master my new role, but I also taught myself that I can indeed take on increasing responsibility.

So slowly, but surely, I became a fan of seeking out – and stepping into – whatever was challenging me at that moment.  And while, yes, at times heavy, that weight has only ever been temporary. In its place, I have enjoyed a mastery over a situation which once seemed to hold me hostage and, consequently, gained freedom.

In leadership – and in life – our most meaningful lessons can come in the form of triggers and upsets, some trivial, others life-changing.

No matter what, it’s up to us as leaders to see and use those situations as opportunities to rise higher to the next level.

Negative Emotions: Contagion…or Catalyst?

Not one of us walking this earth is immune to life’s inevitable challenges.  A missed connection we desperately wanted to have…a dropped opportunity that seemingly would have taken us to the next level…a lost promotion…health setbacks…relationship heartache…Doesn’t it seem that just when we think we’ve got everything “under control” … life throws yet another curveball in our path?

And if these obstacles get us as individual leaders down and out, what do you think the knock-on effect might be for our teams?  If we are not able to reframe our own experiences into something to learn and grow from, how do we expect to be able to inspire our team to do so?

“Most leaders, confronted with an upset team member, view negative emotions as a contagion to contain before it infects the broader team.
Or, they see them as a problem to be solved quickly so that people can return to normal.”
Dane Jensen, HBR

However, asserts Jensen, we can guide those we lead (and ourselves) to see uncomfortable emotions as powerful catalysts that can raise our awareness about what our real needs might be.  As such, we become happier, more fulfilled, and consequently more productive and focused in all areas of our lives.

Employee morale gets a boost, our teams discover new ways to unleash their potential – and best of all, the results are often meaningful, lasting and more impactful.

How to Transform Frustration into Motivation

What does frustration signify? That we need to persevere in finding more creative ways to go about realizing our vision.  Forbes contributor Amy Blaschka challenges us to think about frustration in a way that may be different for many of us – “As maddening as it can be to feel like you’re not making progress despite your best efforts, the frustration you’re feeling isn’t necessarily a bad thing.”

Here are some tips to work through frustration and rise above it:

Change the way “frustration” is perceived. Yes, frustration can be…uncomfortable…maddening…frustrating! But what if we started to think about it differently, in a more empowering light? Far from being an annoyance to be quickly cast off, frustration can actually be an incredible impetus to accelerated growth and creativity. As Forbes author John Hittler reminds us, frustration “acts as the required first step in the creative process.”

Consider if clarity is the bigger issue. Think of it as the “why” behind frustration. Ask honestly: “Why am I frustrated?” The answer might be a lack of clarity. When we’re spinning our wheels and can’t seem to find a way to motor out, it may be worthwhile to look within, rather than without to external circumstances.  This is why it’s important to get clear on our values and goals – and to reevaluate them as needed.

Decide if a detour might be needed. Remember that cringeworthy, worn-out phrase “It’s always been done this way”? Sometimes it’s hard to recognize when we ourselves have fallen into a path that just isn’t the right one for us anymore. If you’ve been hitting it hard for a while but those wheels are still stuck…consider moving past your own comfort zone.

Top Leadership Tip: Listen to Emotions.

This golden nugget is so important, it deserves special recognition. Emotions have much to teach, but many of us have been conditioned to stifle our feelings – labeling them as “bad,” “wrong” or “inappropriate.”  Yes, society, family and even friends tell most of us to keep those emotions in check.  Even more, most of our parents or other family members infused their beliefs into us during our formative years, impacting how we respond to our own emotions.

But that is where our own leadership of ourselves comes in: choosing to learn – rather than runfrom our feelings. This is the springboard for the most impactful leadership – of ourselves and others – because by learning from what holds us back, we break down the barriers within and outside us.  And isn’t that the quintessential idea of leadership in the first place?

“Frustration is fuel that can lead to the development of an innovative and useful idea.”
― Marley Dias

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