To be completely honest, a consistent daily generalized frustration with the status quo is my core personal motivational tool. My general frustration drives me every day to push myself and those around me to grow and create change. It is that intrinsic need to move the world from where it is, on a straight line to that vision I see in my mind of success. For years I believed that letting that frustration drive me and empower me would help me be a better leader.
Frustration is an extremely powerful emotion, and it can be an influential internal motivation tool. But that same driving frustration, if displayed can have catastrophic effects on the people you intend to lead and ruin the connection and trust a leader may have with their team or the employees they manage.
Books and movies have long glorified the passionate leader standing at the head of the boardroom table barking commands with hands waving in an animated display of frustration and power. As they reach the climax of their tirade their eyebrows furrow together, their lips narrow, and they glare their eyes in an alpha display of anger. As they wade through all of the problems driving the spectacle their nose wrinkles and they raise their upper lip revealing clenched teeth and turning their heads away in disgust. As the passion wanes from the release of emotion, their eyes go flat, and with a small shrug of a shoulder and curling of the lip on one side they deliver the final blow to the team with a clear demonstration of contempt. In no uncertain terms, without hearing a single word of the “motivational speech” everyone in the room recognizes their lack of worthiness and inferiority.
While this exhibition may certainly make for a great moment of entertainment and give the leader a momentary sliver of emotional satisfaction, it couldn’t be more toxic for the people he or she intends to lead.
Whenever I have this conversation with other leaders they often come back with a subtle display of contempt paired with a slight shaking of the head as they explain that they never “fly off the handle” like that.
The truth is, these toxic moments are rarely that public or animated. Usually it is a slight shrug or sigh when someone comes to the leader with a question or a rolling of the eyes when a team member shares a “not so great” idea. These subtle demonstrations of frustration can be just as toxic, if not more so than a public tirade.
What I share with new leaders is that we are NEVER openly frustrated with our people or our environment. A frustrated leader who is showing frustration in their verbal and body language can literally kill a business. When a leader is frustrated, the signals they are sending clearly resonate as contempt for those around them. Not only does this destroy the positive environment we are working to create. It kills motivation, initiative, and communication of the team. There is nothing more toxic for a team than a leader demonstrating frustration and contempt. Team members will stop communicating and demonstrating initiative because their primary goal then becomes either avoidance of the leader, or focusing on just the things they know they are doing right so as not to increase the leaders frustration. If a leader is beginning to feel frustrated, instead of pointing out the problems, blowing up, or blaming others they should be pointing the finger at themselves and focus on personal leadership growth, and becoming the beacon of inspiration for their team.
The key to finding a balance is to use your internal motivation from your personal emotional frustrations to drive your inspiration toward personal and business growth, but keep those toxic emotions from erupting when working with your team. Make it a goal to maintain the “4 C’s” of leadership. Candor, Connection, Character, and Competence.