Lighten Up: Leading is Half the Fun


Have you not learned great lessons from those who rejected you, and braced themselves against you, or disputed the passage with you?  -Walt Whitman

A story is told of a boy who asks his father to explain the difference among irritation, aggravation, and frustration. The dad picked up the phone and dialed a number at random. When the phone rang he asks, “Can I speak to Alf, please?” To which the person on the other end of the line said, “No! There is no one called Alf here.” Then, they hung up. “That’s irritation,” said the Dad.

Then he picked up the phone again and dialed the same number; once again asking for Alf a second time. This time the irate answerer replied, “No, there is not anyone here called Alf. Go away; if you call again I will call the police.” “That’s aggravation,” commented the Dad.

“Then what is frustration?” asked the son. The father picked up the phone and dialed the same number a third time: “Hello, this is Alf. Have I received any phone calls?”

While there are many rewards to leading, the story reminds us that irritation, aggravation, and frustrations do come our way. Your challenges may not come in the form of a prank call as illustrated in the story, but if you hang around long enough you will experience those wide range of emotions that will confront you as a leader.

Will Rogers said, “Do the best you can, and don’t take life too serious.” While the demands of leadership are many and much is riding on the decisions you make; it is important to be reminded to lighten up. Here are three observations about leaders who are wound too tight. Are you one of them?

A leader wound too tight is not flexible.

I have met leaders over the years that were wound so tight that the least amount of resistance would overwhelm them. Tony Robbins said, “Stay committed to your decisions, but stay flexible in your approach.” This is practical wisdom that can save you a lot of aggravation.

A leader’s ability to be flexible is reflective of one who understands that conditions change, the unexpected happens, and that you can take it in stride. As you demonstrate flexibility to changing conditions it will send the message throughout your organization that you can roll with the flow and it is possible to bend. If things do not go according to plan today; lighten up, tomorrow is a new day.

A leader wound too tight can’t grow.

If a leader can’t adapt to his or her circumstances it will be hard for those around him as well. Eleanor Roosevelt said, “People grow through experience if they meet life honestly and courageously. This is how character is built.” A leader wound too tight is restricted in many ways least of which is his ability to think clearly, include others, and provide the emotional strength needed in times of testing.

As a leader you need an outlet that will give you balance in your daily life. This should include a healthy diet and exercise, a network of friends who can give you perspective, and a faith that will give you courage to put your frustrations into more capable hands. As you lighten up you can go up.

A leader wound too tight will eventually snap.

Let’s face it; at one time or another we’ve all reached the snapping point. You may be there now. The Greek philosopher Democritus said, “The person who can laugh with life has developed deep roots with confidence and faith-faith in oneself, in people and in the world, as contrasted to negative ideas with distrust and discouragement.” What about you? Have you learned to laugh?

Irritation, aggravation, and frustration is part of leadership; a part of life. But as you go through these times it is important to understand this one thing – you go through them. What you go through is not always a choice, but how you go through it is – lighten up.

Are you wound too tight?



© 2013 Doug Dickerson

* This column is featured in my book, Great Leaders Wanted! and is one of the many inspirational columns you will read when you order your copy today.



If you enjoy reading Doug’s leadership insights you will especially enjoy reading his books, Leaders Without Borders & Great Leaders Wanted! Visit Doug’s website at to order your copies today.

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About dougdickerson

I am Certified Leadership Trainer, author, columnist, and speaker. Husband to Alicia, father to Katelyn and Kara, and "Pop" to terrific grandson Tyson. I am an avid photographer, love the outdoors, and like to travel. I'm passionate about sharing my leadership insights and helping people reach their full potential.
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