Skip to content

The Ruthless Elimination of Friction. (#190)


The Confident Leader


A few years ago, I read a powerful book, The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry. The title alone was inspiring. It made me wonder, can a leader ruthlessly eliminate leadership friction?

The world is wide, and I will not waste my life in friction when it could be turned into momentum. 

Frances E. Willard (American educator)

This Week’s Edition

Friction comes with the leadership territory. Do leaders have to live with friction, or can it be eliminated… ruthlessly?

Clarify Your Thinking

Anyone in leadership knows first-hand that each day is filled with surprises that create friction: 

  • Minor day-to-day annoyances
  • Surprises that pop up unexpectedly
  • Challenging people issues 

Friction devours valuable time often keeping a leader from the important priorities of the day. Leaders report spending 54% of their time in a reactive mode.

Perhaps more importantly, friction consumes leadership mental cycles and drains a leader’s energy and precious organizational resources.

Many leaders, who have unsuccessfully attempted to eliminate friction from their leadership life, have resigned themselves to living with these “paper cuts” as part of the job. 

The inability to eliminate friction can leave leaders feeling helpless and settling for a bloated inbox, ineffective meetings, and a lack of team member accountability.

This may relegate leaders to quiet lives of professional desperation wondering when things became so difficult and overwhelming. 

Old Thinking: If it’s not one thing it’s another. I run into something every day. You can’t make this stuff up. Every little paper cut drains me.

New Thinking: I refuse to let the friction win. There must be a solution.

Thoughts Lead to Actions

What approach can a leader take to eliminate the friction they experience in their leadership life? 

A leader’s attitude has more sway on their team (and the organization) given their elevated position. Teams instinctively react to a leader’s attitude whatever it may be. Team culture can even mirror a leader’s attitude – positive or negative.  

First, leaders must determine what type of friction they are encountering. In their coaching sessions, leaders often categorize their friction as: 

  • Uncontrollable 
  • Controllable 

Controllable friction can be proactively managed and conserves your energy to react to the Uncontrollable friction, an inevitable part of leadership. 

Consider this two-week process to begin to ruthlessly eliminate friction:

Week 1: Meticulously log every point of friction you encounter 

  • Keep a daily journal of all friction points
  • Determine what you want to accomplish for each friction point

Week 2: Create a solution and implement it over five days

  • Engage other people to help you source solutions
  • Research solutions that others have found useful

Here are some practical examples:

Too many emails

  • Proactively unsubscribe or block needless emails
  • Create another email address for mailing lists
  • Forward emails to a specific project in your task manager software like Trello or Asana to address later 

Feeling unproductive

  • Use a productivity planner to plan your priorities for the week
  • Block time on the calendar to handle each priority 
  • Reflect at the end of the day to plan for the next day

Constant requests for your time

  • Create a system/process for fielding requests 
  • Create office hours for when you are proactively available

It’s shocking how long we will live with a point of friction even after we have become aware of it. One Stanford University professor has started a Friction Project to highlight this challenge and some possible solutions. We coach leaders to: be proactive when you can and take the time to ruthlessly eliminate friction. 

Boost Your Performance

Watch this week’s video to be encouraged to eliminate controllable friction from your leadership life.

What’s Your Opinion?

How would you describe your everyday attitude? Share it with me at

If you are going to be a leader, you might as well be a good one. Don’t let doubt count you out. Have a confident week!

Robin Pou, Chief Advisor and Strategist

We live to make bad leadership extinct so forward this newsletter to others who strive to be confident leaders. 


Let’s Connect

Follow me on LinkedinFacebook and Twitter.

What is “The Confident Leader”?

During the Covid-19 Pandemic, I began a video series called “Panic or Plan?” It was designed to equip leaders to navigate the doubt they experienced and to rise in the confidence they needed to lead during turbulent times. It took off. I then started this newsletter to equip leaders in the same fashion each week for the doubt that crashes across the bow of their leaderSHIP.