No leader can avoid or hide from adversity and frustration. Intelligent leaders are self-aware and emotionally intelligent enough to realize they can deal with frustration by exercising emotional control. Preparing for rough situations ahead of time allows leaders to respond to frustration rather than react to it.

“Expectation is the mother of all frustration.” – Antonio Banderas. 

For some leaders, frustration is an annoyance that rears its head now and then. For others, frustration is constantly present, hindering their activities and preventing them from fulfilling their potential.

Frustration is an emotional state of anger and annoyance that stems from the disparity between one’s expectations and the outcomes. By responding to frustration instinctively, leaders can alienate their followers and compromise their standing in the eyes of their peers and reports.

overcoming frustration

The ability to overcome frustration is a mark of intelligent leadership. 

Causes of Frustration

As I have stated in my leadership coaching posts and books, leadership maturity is a defining factor in how leaders handle stress and frustration. Recognizing the sources of this instinctual and destructive psychological reaction allows leaders to avoid it when possible and deal with it more effectively when they have to face it.

  • Communication is the Achilles’ heel of many an otherwise successful leader. When communication breaks down, one or both parties involved will feel frustrated.
  • The inability to bring change to fruition is frustrating. Leaders act as agents of change for their organizations. They embrace change, figure out ways to bring it forth, and work to defeat resistance to it. When no meaningful change takes place despite their best efforts, leaders may grow frustrated.
  • A lack of advancement opportunities. People want to make meaningful progress in their careers. They like to work toward personal goals like organizations do. When careers become stagnant, frustration rears its head.
  • The inefficiency of work-related processes and solutions. Whether due to a human factor or technological one, work-related inefficiencies can be frustrating for leaders.

Reacting Vs. Responding

When faced with frustration, leaders can react or respond. Reacting is the instinctive way of handling frustration. As such, it is hardy optimal from the perspectives of leadership coaching or intelligent leadership.

Leaders who react instead of responding surrender control and choose the easy way out. It is easier to pour more fuel onto a fire than to put it out. By reacting, that is all they achieve.

Those who respond assume control of their emotions and the situation at hand. Emotional control is one of the hallmarks of effective, intelligent leadership.

Emotional Control and Its Implications

Controlling your emotions does not mean suppressing them. Emotional control requires self-awareness and emotional intelligence. Executive coaching views the ability to control emotions as proof that a leader has mastered self-awareness and is emotionally intelligent.

Understanding Emotions

Emotionally intelligent leaders understand the value and roles of emotions. Expressing positive emotions can lead to positive results in employee engagement, empowerment, and talent retention.

By contrast, negative emotions cause alarm among employees and raise stress levels in an organization.

Preparing for High-Stress Situations

Avoiding high-stress situations and negative people is a good recipe for managing frustration. Unfortunately, leaders cannot afford this approach. They have to face problems and devise solutions, not run and hide.

Preparing in advance for the possibility of conflict makes leaders less likely to react instinctually and more likely to formulate calculated responses.

Weighing the Implications

Business coaching teaches leaders to take calculated actions and avoid emotional reactions. To respond to conflict instead of reacting to it, leaders must consider the implications of their actions.

positive emotions

Leaders understand the implications of positive and negative emotions. 

An emotional, instinctual reaction may send wrong messages to employees and stakeholders. Visibly angry and frustrated leaders create atmospheres of stress that can engulf entire organizations, unsettling employees and prompting them to question their allegiance to common causes.

How Can You Control Your Emotions? 

To prevent an emotional reaction or outburst, take your time before responding. Be proactive about inevitable conflicts and prepare for them. Sharpen your self-awareness by practicing mindfulness.

No one can avoid frustration and adversity. How one deals with these variables defines a person’s ability to lead and inspire others.


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