The Leadership of Frustration

The Leadership of Frustration


How do you respond to frustration? Doesn’t it seem inevitable that certain things in life ultimately make us stressed out, annoyed, or even hostile?  Here is an interesting perspective on the subject worth thinking about, which may alter your choices regarding how to deal with life’s curve balls.

Are you frustrated at work? At home?

How we think about frustration affects how frustrated we feel and how effectively we deal with it. Author Ana Maravelas, who conducts seminars around the world about reducing stress and conflict, argues that there are two sources of energy: frustration and appreciation.

Frustration #1: He or she is to blame

There have likely been times in life when you were in a blaming culture. Kids blame their siblings, husbands blame their wives, or executives blame fellow employees. In each case, a person is the target of the problem. This culture is one that undermines efforts, it is by nature inflammatory and it increases hostility.

Frustration #2: I am to blame


Perhaps you are often frustrated with yourself? Self-criticism often leads to feelings of apathy, depression, and helplessness. There likely have been times when you were part of a culture of apathy and boredom. People I know who work government jobs-they may love the job security, but they also can’t wait for the clock to strike 5, as they stare over the sea of cubicles and debate the meaning and worth of their occupation. The famous comedy troupe Second City has a sketch with a superhero named, “Captain Apathy” where he “has all the powers of superman but none of the desires or ambitions to use them.”

Frustration #3: Focus on the situation, not the person

Amazingly you can have frustration and simultaneously support others. Instead of being angry at someone else (or yourself), you work to create a positive atmosphere so that you and others around you can be “in the zone” and focus on the solutions. The culture is all about appreciation, as opposed to being disengaged or, at the worst, a culture of cynicism and anxiety.

My frustration: This is not as obvious as it may sound!

Maravelas would poll her seminars to find that 10 percent would claim they were raised in families with warm and supportive cultures. The other 90 percent put their families in indifferent or hostile categories. This means that while we all may know that a positive atmosphere can lead to a life of less stress, it hasn’t been our experience-it’s not what actually happens in our daily routines.

There needs to be a reconnection with an energy-an energy of cooperation, collaboration, camaraderie, and achievement. The motivation to maintain the positive energy is to NOT be in the indifferent or hostile domains. I strongly believe that the main value in studying what leadership principles work and are useful is that we can begin to integrate them in our own cultures. I mean, where are you in this spectrum? Perhaps you often feel withdrawn, distant, or low energy? Perhaps your gut instinct is to blame others?

My instinct is to often use humor as a way to reconnect with positive energy. Of course comedy can often come from dark, angry places-but it doesn’t have to PRODUCE dark and angry results. It can lead to a culture of appreciation, which is always my goal. The cool thing about humor is that it tends to be the low points in the life that give us the best opportunities to find the funny.

Using humor is a great way to convey a practical point about life. Discussing a practical point about life is a great opportunity to use humor.

When I speak to groups about leadership, I often think about the spectrum of frustration and how humor (among other positive forces such as cooperation and creativity) can help us sustain our families, friends and coworkers in a world of appreciation and not so much in a world of frustration.

How do you respond to frustration?

Do you often find yourself more hostile or self-critical than you would like to be?

Reply to this post or tweet me @brombizzle

-Michael Bromberg


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