The Power of Frustrating Leadership Friends

People who frustrate you fill holes in your leadership. You need them more than you think.

I took on my first leadership challenge in 1981. I didn’t even know what leadership meant. I did know that it seemed I was surrounded by people who frustrated me. They didn’t want to do what I wanted!

Since then, I’ve learned to appreciate frustrators; the people who look at the world different from me. Sometimes they don’t want what I want. Frequently, however, we want the same thing, but they’re frustratingly different.

I never liked it when someone told me I was like my mom. But, I am. My temperament comes from mom’s French-Canadian roots, emotional. I’m an emotion filled leader and I’m emotional. I work at being emotionally steady.

My first leadership friend was frustratingly steady. He’s still my friend, thankfully. During a recent skype chat, I admired the steady cadence of his thoughtful comments.

In addition to being emotional, I wrongly believe seeing the big picture is enough to get things done. I’m fortunate to have a leadership friend who loves to “frustrate” me by using the term, “operationalize.” He says, “I’m just trying to operationalize what you’re saying.” I hate that!

Here’s another one. I have a leadership friend who loves to measure results. I don’t want to measure results. Just keep pushing toward more. He frustrates me by asking, “What are you going to measure?” Grrr!

Al, a long-term contributor on Leadership Freak is different from me. I’m provocative and sometimes abrasive. Al is tender hearted. Even though we’ve never met, Al’s kindness always teaches me. In my younger days I might have thought Al was weak, but no more.


The richness of leadership is found in community, not isolation. Cultivate a team that shares your values but looks at things different from you.


Have you experienced those “frustrating” people who turned out to be wise, after all?


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