Sunday, August 28, 2011

It's Not About the Leader

By Mary Byers

FRUSTRATION. It’s a normal part of a leader’s life. After all, we’re working with imperfect humans. Some are responsible, others forgetful. Some are stubborn dictators and others are people pleasers. And some are highly capable and others, well, let’s just say they’re still learning.

Recently, I was consumed by a leadership role when I was stymied by a challenge with a volunteer. She and I weren’t able to see eye to eye on something. Every time I contemplated the difference in opinion, I thought to myself, “I can’t deal with this!”

As my frustration grew, I realized that how I was thinking about the situation was part of the problem. Thinking, “I can’t handle this,” was disempowering. I wondered what would happen if, instead, I began to think, “I am capable of handling this situation.” Thinking such a positive thought didn’t come easily. I had to actively work at it. But it’s amazing what happened when I began to believe that I could, in fact, handle the challenge before me.

Instead of being overwhelmed, I felt empowered. Instead of feeling frustrated, I began to proactively seek solutions. And instead of focusing on what I considered to be a negative aspect of this volunteer’s personality, I began to see things from her point of view and acknowledge that she had a right to her opinion—even though it was different from mine.

Though small, the shift in my thinking (from “I can’t” to “I can”) made a big difference. It’s enabled me to see possibility where I didn’t think any existed. And it’s made me realize how much more comfortable I am when I am in control or things go my way. This incident has caused me to pause and rethink the value of truly collaborative efforts. I’m still not totally comfortable with the direction we’re taking. But I realize that leadership isn’t about the leader; it’s about the process of coming together to do work that’s bigger than each person individually. And my job, instead of allowing frustration to overwhelm me, is to ask, “How can we move forward in spite of the frustration?” As it turns out, I’m finding this simple question has application not only in my role as a leader, but also in my personal and professional life as well.

Mary Byers is a professional speaker and author of Making Work at Home Work: Successfully Growing a Business and a Family Under One Roof.


  1. This was very timely. Thank you for showing up in my inbox this morning!!

  2. Yes, yes, yes. Thank you Mary. Last night our church had a revival service with Paul Cherry ( and I had a question posed to me from God: would I sacrifice my own feelings in order to love God's kids? Would I put my desires, my thoughts, my opinions down so God could use me where He has called me to use me?

    I had to answer yes. God has already done that for me and more.