Don’t Succumb to Feelings of PowerlessnessEven the most accomplished, high-performing leader can sometimes feel powerless. It can happen because of internal politics, when you butt heads with your organization’s bureaucratic structure, or when others in the company stifle progress and innovative thought.

So says Mary Jo Asmus, a contributor to Smart Blog Leadership, who cautions leaders to watch for signs of feeling powerless in their thoughts and words. Knowing the warning signs will enable you to avoid succumbing to (or help you overcome) those feelings. Such thoughts and words include:

Three Signs of Feelings of Powerlessness

“There’s nothing we can do about it”

There’s always something you can do, “even if it means to consciously choose to not let something get under your skin,” Asmus says. It’s a matter of choosing how to feel about any given situation.

“It’s their fault we’re not able to move ahead”

This might be true, but it doesn’t have to immobilize you. Even if stasis is someone else’s fault, what can you do to overcome it?

“I’m bailing out”

Opting out of a difficult situation is the easy choice, but not one effective leaders make. Instead, Asmus suggests, “consider what it might mean to stay and make a difference by catalyzing and leading important changes.”

Take Back Your Power

When faced with an apparently intractable situation, everything depends on taking a step back and looking differently at things. Let go of your need to be all-controlling.

Feelings of powerlessness can reduce you to “playing a victim role.” But by always asking yourself, “What can I do?” you’re free to approach a situation in a different way. This also broadens awareness of yourself and your thought-patterns—those “personal attitudes, filters, emotions or thoughts” that keep you down, and which you need to change.

Don’t hesitate to ask others for help. A trusted advisor may have a different take on the situation that you just haven’t seen. As Asmus notes, “Stay open to seeing things another way, and you might find a way forward.”

The hardest thing to do is to let go. Realize the thing that has you feeling so helpless, also has you tangled up in an unhealthy mode of thinking. By letting go, you may come to realize the issue isn’t worth your time and energy. Or you can decide to accept whatever the outcome may be.

By making a conscious decision to act or think differently about a situation, you gain “emotional space” to focus on other elements just as important (or more important) to you and your organization.

“You have more power than you think,” Asmus says—the power to decide how you view a situation, instead of feeling victimized by it.

How do you combat feelings of powerlessness?