How the Best Leaders Handle Frustration Like a Professional

How the Best Leaders Handle Frustration Like a Professional

John Eades 11/10/2021
How the Best Leaders Handle Frustration Like a Professional

We have all been there at one point or another; there is probably something right now that is frustrating you. It may not be, I am joining "the great resignation" club badly, but it is still a consistent struggle with someone or something at work.  

Maybe it's a team member who isn't giving their best effort. Perhaps it's your boss who micromanages every move. Whatever the case, it started as a minor inconvenience, and now it nags at you daily.  

It turns out, your capacity to overcome frustrations is a sign that you are an effective leader. Early research by LearnLoft indicates that the ability to handle adversity is one of the most overlooked traits of successful leaders. 

The ability to overcome adversity like frustration is a good predictor of effective leadership.

What is Frustration and its Causes?







Source: Shepherds Friendly 

Frustration is defined as the feeling of being upset or annoyed. There are two states of frustration that professionals can find themselves in.

  1. Consistent State
  2. Momentary State

When someone is in a consistent state of frustration, they get negative and pessimistic, which never allows them to live up to their potential. 

Momentary frustration happens to all of us, but it isn't always a bad thing since it can be a helpful indicator of problems. As a result, frustration can act as a motivator to change. However, when that momentary frustration turns to anger, depression, elevated levels of stress, and resentment, it becomes destructive. 

Now that we know, frustration is a feeling that can be destructive, it's essential to recognize some common sources of frustration in the workplace:

  1. Communication Issues - When two or more people don't have consistent communication that is clear, concise, and conclusive, it's a recipe for frustration for one or both parties.
  2. Lack of Meaningful Change - When things stay the same, or there isn't a viable path to improvement, it causes people to get annoyed or even upset. If employees start to say, "It's always going to be this way, nothing is going to change here," it's a bad spot to be.
  3. Limited Opportunities for Career Advancement - When team members feel there is nowhere to go beyond their current role, it causes frustration. This is particularly challenging in organizations with less than 100 employees.
  4. Process or Technology Problems - Inefficient and manual process that can be automated or improved is a bain in many professionals existence. "This is so manual and repetitive; there has to be a better way to do this." 

How the Best Leaders Handle Frustration Like a Professional

If you want to stop being frustrated, you aren't going to hope your way there. You have to start acting differently. The idea of hoping things change is a terrible strategy. As the late Rick Page used to say, "hope is not a strategy."  

The best leaders know, hope isn't a strategy.

A solid and consistent strategy followed by action is the best way to overcome frustration. The best part is, anyone can adopt new methods and then develop their skills to help them be successful at it.  

Overcoming frustration requires you to take action.

Now that you're aware that action is the key, here are some things you can do about frustration to model the best leaders.

1. Add the Truth

When you notice a team member is showing signs of frustration, don't hope it goes away. It's time to add the truth to conversations. While it might seem like an obvious strategy, the majority of people would rather avoid the truth for fear of what they might hear or what might happen. As a mentor wisely told me, "Our ability to sense the truth is amazing, and the truth needs no crutches."

The best leaders embrace talking about the truth because they know the best path to remove frustrations is to add the truth. 

The best way to remove frustration is to add the truth.  

There are a few ways to get to the truth; first, ask yourself or team members to communicate the source of their frustration. Second, listen or seek to understand what might be causing it.  

2. Acknowledge the Root Cause and Develop Solutions

Rarely will our first pass at communicating the root cause of our frustration come out clearly. It's worth the mental bandwidth to get to the source by asking that hard question of "why." A strategy I go through with some of my executive coaching clients is called the "Two-Level Why" All I do is ask executives to take their feelings of frustration two levels lower than they start.  

Here is a simple example:


It's a short and straightforward example, but if you get in the habit of leveraging the "two-level why" with yourself or your team, you will get to the root cause of the frustration more often and get to solutions. 

3. Perseverance Over Perfection

Knowing we are human and emotions are part of what makes us great, it's impossible to remove frustration altogether. So what's required is to persevere instead of expecting perfection.  

If you are expecting perfection, you will constantly be frustrated.  

One of my favorite strategies for this is a simple, practical resolution to say to yourself. It goes like this: "I will not be frustrated anymore by things others do or do not do, but rather I will take ownership over things in my control and be proactive in finding ways to reconcile them."

A simple affirmation like this gives you the power to overcome frustration versus blaming others.  


Frustration and adversity are guarantees in life. Your ability to overcome them and create the best outcomes for all those involved is vital in determining your success.  

Take an honest look at the things that are frustrating you right now. Are you doing all you can adding the truth, getting to the root cause, and persevering without expecting perfection? If the answer isn't what you want it to be, now is the time to act before the frustration gets to a point where you join the "great resignation" club.

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John Eades

Leadership Expert

John is the CEO of LearnLoft, author of, F.M.L. Standing Out & Being a Leader and host of the 'Follow My Lead' Podcast. He writes or has been featured on, LinkedIn Pulse,,, CNBC Money, and more. John completed his education at the University of Maryland College. 

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