Patience in Leadership ~ More Discipline than Virtue

The original of this post was published in 2010. I have revisited it and refreshed it because, well, sometimes I need a little reminding about some things.  The importance of cultivating patience is one of them.

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Patience.  It isn’t often included in the list of primary attributes we look for in leaders and yet to me, it is an underpinning of good leadership.

Ben Franklin once said, “He that can have patience, can have what he will”

Note that he didn’t say, “can have what he will”…NOW.

In a world where technology demands speed and the pressure to produce immediate results is all around us, disciplining ourselves to be patient is tough. Nonetheless, for leaders, it is a challenge worth pursuing.   Here’s why:

Patience allows us to suspend judgment long enough to make considered decisions

Often, when the pressure is on, we can make snap decisions that we later come to regret.   With a little patience, we can give ourselves the benefit of stopping to consider the impact of the decisions we make and whom we might be affecting by making them.  And besides, ill-considered decisions usually result in having to take corrective action anyway.

Patience allows for the development of late bloomers

Not everyone learns at the same rate.  Some, like the hare, are quick out of the gate and others, like the tortoise, are slower off the mark.  Each needs leadership to get to the finish line.  Patience requires us to steer the hare and reach back to encourage the tortoise.

If you are a leader with little patience for the development of those who take more time to learn and grow than you’d like, you could be missing something.  After all, Winston Churchill was a late bloomer

Patience can help us to be better Listeners

Most of us recognize the value of listening, both to get to understanding and in building solid relationships. To accomplish either of those things there must be patience enough to suspend our own judgments and focus on what is being said rather than on what we are about to say.

Patience can help us manage stress

Getting to the place where we accept that sometimes we just have to wait can diffuse a lot of negative feeling.  If we are frequently impatient with those around us, we are likely also frequently frustrated and possibly angry too.  Managing our own expectations long enough to put matters into perspective can relieve a lot of tension and ultimately make work a more pleasant experience.

So, if you buy all that, the next question is, how do we develop patience?

Well, not being the most patient of people, I’m still working on that one. There are however, a few ideas that come to mind and here they are:

Learn to value the questions as much as the answers

There is a lot of benefit in curiosity and exploration. Patiently peeling away the layers of a problem through questioning and listening does, I think, result in a richer and more rewarding outcome.

Know the “impatient” triggers and practice managing them

To develop our level of patience, I think we need to focus on what makes us snap and the triggers that usually take us there.  Once noticed, the rest is about practicing in an equally conscious way to improve our tolerance levels.

Keep the long-term goal in mind

It’s easy to get caught up in the pursuit of short-term results.  After all, they can be very gratifying.   The problem is, if we spend all of our time chasing quick results, we can easily get sidetracked and lose sight of our primary purpose.  Some opportunities are worth waiting for.  And, some goals just take longer to achieve.  It seems to me that if they are important, they deserve whatever time it takes to accomplish them.

In the final analysis, it’s probably safe to say we all suffer from bouts of impatience, some of us more chronically than others.  Impatience in leadership is particularly troublesome because it gets in the way of our ability to do the right things at the right times. What do you think?

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If you want more on the virtues of developing patience in leadership, I came across a great post you might want to check out entitled, “Leading with Patience – The Will to Wait” by Doug Moran.

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13 Comments

Filed under building awareness, Building Relationships, Leadership, Leadership Development, Self Knowledge

13 responses to “Patience in Leadership ~ More Discipline than Virtue

  1. Jay

    Your messages are insightful and connecting. Thank you.

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  3. djgreerDavid Greer

    Hi Gwyn,

    Great reminders. For an overachiever, such as may I say myself, learning to have patience with myself is something I really need to continuously work on. I also need to carve out the time to journal, think, and let the answers come to me rather than pushing to seek them out.

    That is a personal challenge that recent events have reminded me I need to practice patience in everything I do, but especially with my goal driven self.

    Cheers,

    David

    • Gwyn Teatro

      Hi David ~ Letting the answers come to us requires a lot of patience to be sure. Sometimes I think we believe that we should know what they are and that’s why we busy ourselves with activity, trying this thing and that thing, when, as you say, taking time to think and observe is more productive in the long run. Thank you for that.

  4. Gwyn,

    I’m also not the most patient person in the world! But fortunately I’ve become a little more patient over time.

    I really like the point you made about patience and listening. I had never thought that listening requires patience, but it certainly does. And listening is such an important way to gather information from employees including getting suggestions and uncovering problems. Therefore, the patience to listen is definitely rewarded.

    One way I deal with impatience in a productive way is to immerse myself in the details of what I’m currently doing. That helps make sure that things are getting done right which will help make sure that good things will likely follow all of the waiting. As a very wise person once told me, “Greg, if you take care of the minutes, the hours will take care of themselves.”

    I also enjoyed reading Doug Moran’s post on patience. His discussion of the patience that Benjamin Franklin and Gandhi had was inspiring. It takes a strong person to have patience for several years or even several decades like Gandhi.

    That part of his post made me think that persistence might be a cousin of patience.

    • Gwyn Teatro

      Hi Greg ~ Persistence as a cousin of patience is a good way of looking at. I’m thinking too that when we persist, it is usually because we believe in something enough to want to hang in there with it. So, perhaps part of the patience challenge is to have enough belief in whatever it is we seek to accomplish to ensure that we don’t weaken in our resolve.

  5. Gwyn,

    This is a pretty insightful statement “there must be patience enough to suspend our own judgments and focus on what is being said rather than on what we are about to say.”

    Many times, we are too quick to view events through our own lens – and not look at the bigger picture… We cannot do it alone; change is too rapid and we need the help of others – and we need them to be engaged… If we as leaders judge too quickly and do not allow the conversation to flow (even if takes longer than we want it to ) – we will not allow those who work for us to blossom and take ownership for the problems we want them to solve…

    Mike

    • Gwyn Teatro

      Hi Mike ~ Your comment reminds me of something I once read from Edgar Schein. He introduced this acronym..ORJI. After I stopped giggling about the familiarity of that word with another similar word, I came to know that it means O-bservation, R-eaction, J-udgement I-ntervention.
      He explained that whenever we are faced with a new situation, that is the sequence our minds go through. We observe. We react. We judge. We intervene. However, in order for us to get the most accurate view, we must train ourselves to remain longer in observation. So often, we jump straight to reaction, judgement and intervention without stopping to consider what is really going on. That’s where the patience comes…and the discipline.

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  9. excellent thought makes practical reading and learning

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