Good Leaders Will Frustrate You


Leadership isn’t just about making people feel good about themselves. Leadership is about seeing potential in people and challenging them to realize it.

A friend once said: “Your best leaders will always frustrate you.” He was talking about leadership and vision and delegation. I’ve been thinking about those words ever since he said them—about how I respond to leadership and about how I lead and influence others.

It has taught me some important lessons:

1. You must trust your leaders

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t sometimes frustrated by the leaders over me. Often, I don’t have enough context to see the big picture, and sometimes, they’re wrong. But most of the time, I just don’t want to be challenged. 

Growth hurts, and we all prefer comfort. But I’ve learned that if I’m working with someone who occasionally frustrates me by pushing me and believing more in me than I do, then I’m working with a good leader. And I’ve learned to trust that.

If you can’t trust that your leader is challenging and pushing you for the right reasons, then you have an issue that needs to be resolved. Either you quit or learn to trust him.

2. Good leaders aren’t afraid to challenge people

Good leaders specialize in calling people out. Sure, they need to do so with grace and care, but the bottom line is this: Leaders challenge people to step out of of their comfort zones. For most people, it’s not fun to be uncomfortable. It requires change and sacrifice and really hard work.

If you’re afraid of challenging people, then you’re not cut out to be a leader. A leader must care more about helping people grow than being liked.

3. Being a leader requires you to make people uncomfortable

Leadership isn’t just about making everyone feel good about themselves all the time. (However, encouragement and affirmation, are important parts of the job.)

Great leadership is about seeing potential in people and challenging them to realize it. The leader’s responsibility is to guide his or her team to a new level—where strength and perseverance are tested and refined.

Leaders intentionally develop those under their influence. They relationally invest into their lives and walk through important decisions together. When there is resistance, they lean into the situation, offering a loving rebuke when necessary.

Ready to lead?

Whether you lead a family or run an an entire organization, you’re in for some frustrating work. Not only will those whom you lead frustrate you, but those that lead you will do the same. It’s part of the job.

Leaders challenge people. There is no way around it. They upset the status quo. They offend and frustrate. But more than anything, they help you grow.

If you’re an influencer—someone who wants to help move and motivate people to make a difference—you need to challenge people. You need to frustrate. Make people mad. Risk getting fired. (Trust me, if you get fired for challenging the status quo, there are better places to work.)

As scary as this is, it’s the only way to do meaningful work. Sometimes, you have to make people mad. Not for the sake of being a jerk, but to lead people into a new understanding of themselves.

A note to followers:

If you’re following a leader (and most of us are), consider the implications of this idea. Ask your manager or a peer to challenge you—even to the point of frustration. Offer to work with them to help you change and grow.

I guarantee they’ll more than appreciate the request. Wouldn’t you?


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