The other day I had a phone call with a leader I’m working with. The call really bothered me. This woman spent thirty minutes complaining about her company and her role. The more she went on, the more frustrated I became.
It’s never fun to get an earful of someone else’s negativity - but this call really stuck with me. I was still thinking about it later that afternoon. Eventually I realized why: This woman was a senior leader in her company, but she didn’t show up as a leader. Her complaining made her sound like an employee.
Everybody gets frustrated at work. That’s normal. But leaders need to be able to move through the frustration. I’ll cut an employee who’s complaining some slack, because he probably can’t change his day-to-day circumstances that much.
But a leader can.
I called this leader back and had a frank talk with her. I told her that while I understood the reasons for her frustrations, she needed to step up and move forward. If there’s a problem, don’t whine about it, fix it!
I often ask myself the same question when I’m frustrated in my own leadership role: Do I sound like an employee or a leader? The second I catch myself sounding like an employee, I shift my perspective. I start thinking about how I can step up to fix the problem.