Let's face it. No matter how good of a leader we might be, we all frustrate the people we lead. I sure do. Not on purpose, though. It's the reality of being a flawed human being who tries his best but will always have weaknesses. Like you, I've tried to work on those weaknesses over the years so I don't frustrate those I lead as much, but there's still a long way to go. With that end mind, here are 7 Ways to Frustrate the People You Lead that I have, unfortunately, learned from experience.

Have Unspoken or Unclear Expectations

One of my favorite phrases is unspoken expectations lead to frustration. I don’t know if I made that up or got it from someone else (probably the latter), but it has shown to be true time and time again. Especially in a marriage, but really in any relationship or team. As leaders, we should make our expectations clear for the people we lead.

Don’t Get to Know and Care for them Personally

John Maxwell has a famous quote that says “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care“. Everyone has to believe they are known and cared for. Some people don't need it as much as others, but everyone needs it and everyone deserves it from their leaders. Relationships are ultimately what make people stick in a volunteer or paid staff role. If someone we lead doesn't feel known and cared for, they will be frustrated.

Don’t Involve Them in Decisions That Affect Them

The larger the organization gets, the more this becomes a problem. When an organization is small everyone is usually around the “decision table”. As the organization grows, that becomes impossible as it would completely slow down the organization. So, this is unavoidable to an extent, but it’s important that whenever possible, we involve the people we lead in discussions that will lead to a decision that affects them. Everybody wants to have a voice, especially in the decisions that impact them.

Be Disorganized So Much That It Affects Them

I think it's impossible to be disorganized and not have it affect your team. Most people are disorganized in some aspect of their life. If you’re like me, you’re more organized everywhere else than you are at home. Regardless of how well you naturally do this, if you are disorganized so much that it affects those you lead, then it will frustrate them. The more organized your team is, the more this will frustrate them.

Rarely Encourage Them

People need encouragement. Nobody complains about receiving too much encouragement. This is a big weakness of mine, so I know the effects it can have. If you're like me, you are aware of ways to encourage your team and you think about it, but then forget to do anything with it. It's kind of like Andy Stanley's quote on gratitude:

“Unexpressed gratitude communicates ingratitude.”

If we don’t encourage the people we lead they will eventually be frustrated and want to quit. Simply thinking or feeling it isn't enough. We must actually encourage them regularly.

Never Challenge Them

Conventional wisdom might suggest that challenging those you lead could actually frustrate them. That is true if it’s done in an unhealthy or unrealistic way. However, not challenging them can be frustrating as well. In the book Drive, author Daniel Pink uses 4 decades of research to suggest that what truly motivates people are 3 things: autonomy, mastery, and purpose. If people really do want to master their craft, then they have to be challenged to grow.

Avoid Talking About Their Hopes and Dreams

One of the hardest things we have to do as leaders is prioritizing their hopes and dreams above ours and our organization's. If we love what they add to the team and to the organization, it’s hard to think about what would happen if they left. However, good leaders put others first and help them pursue their God-given dreams even when it means leaving the organization.


What did I leave out? What frustrates you? How do you frustrate people?