This is a day of enormous pressure, coming from every side and angle. People crave stability and answers. Things leaders cannot always give. This requires a leader to remain patient in spite of the noise, clamoring, and pressure. The leader must take a long view of things, realizing that having a purpose and sticking to it is essential for meaningful change.
Perhaps you had a teacher as I did that repeatedly shared, “Patience is a virtue.” Underneath my breath I would mutter, “that I don’t have.” If you are a Type A personality like me, you’ll agree—patience is not a natural gifting to us. We want things done faster, smarter, and better. However, becoming a great leader means finding ways to cultivate patience in your life.
Patience is not just waiting; it is waiting calmly and with a good attitude for something or through something. If patience is a virtue, it would imply that there would be a degree of pain or suffering or boredom involved. Patience, according to some scholars, is actually composed of self-control (being able to control our own actions and do so without complaint); humility (accepting that I am no more important than anyone else and there is no reason why I shouldn’t wait); generosity (smiling and dealing pleasantly with the world when it seems to be conspiring against you). That describes a characteristic we all need and, hopefully, want.
There are many reasons why it’s important for a leader to have patience. Improved productivity, improved time management, and more ably adapting to change are all frequently mentioned.
Here’s another reason according to most of the people who work for us or with us: When a leader displays patience, the environment is simply nicer and less stressful. Impatient leaders are perceived as aggressive, critical, and somewhat hostile. Team members may be reluctant to interact with the leader. The impatient leader will frequently make rash, unprocessed decisions they come to regret.
The first step most of us can take is to make an honest self-assessment on whether or not patience is an issue in our lives and leadership. Ask people who know you well and are not afraid to be truthful with you to help you see yourself accurately if you are brave enough to accept criticism.
Here are some miscellaneous tips for developing your patience professionally that will definitely help you lead in public, and will improve your personal relationships as well:
Withhold judgment. Don’t snap to an opinion about people’s performance. Instead, try to understand what’s going on. Perhaps you asked too much or provided too little guidance on what you wanted done and how.
Be a better listener. Successful leaders have amazing listening skills. That is one of the main reasons why they are successful. If you recognize this and put it on your priority list, you will grow as a leader. Remember to differentiate between hearing and listening. It’s important to have the patience to listen to others, as you will be able to fully understand what that person wants to say. Since communication is a two-way street, it requires you to listen, understand, and then respond to successfully communicate ideas with others.
Question yourself. Ask why you are feeling inpatient about a situation or with respect to a particular person. The fault may lie with you; you may just be unreasonable.
Understand the situation and establish the facts. How important is this problem? How urgent is its resolution? Then work to establish and follow-through on an effective plan.
Develop a willingness to expect and accept the unexpected graciously. Nothing ever goes as planned, and the sign of a good plan and great leader is the ability to respond effectively when things go off the rails. Unforeseen events are always a test of patience, and so we must have an attitude of preparedness that enables us to respond evenly and effectively. Leaders often face these challenges. Having the patience to respond deliberately may cause others to attack us. Leadership means enduring the uninformed attacks. To “wait and not grow weary,” as the ancient writer Isaiah said, tests even the best.
But patience is worth it to us and the people we lead. It gives great results because patience shows respect. Focused listening communicates respect. Impatience while listening communicates that you don’t value others’ opinions.
Patience increases productivity. If you are constantly telling your team members to hurry up, it will foster frustration or fear, and neither are helpful. Patience and deliberate instructions give the best results.
Patience allows freedom. People process that at different paces. If you are impatient with their “upload,” you will be communicating to them that they are “less than.” That is not true and will likely drive discouragement. If they know they have freedom to process at their own speeds, they will be better workers.
Patience inspires positivity. When you lead with patience, you inspire your team to have a positive attitude during difficult times. They figure that if you can do it, they can.
Patience exercises good timing. Timing is everything. Everything around us encourages us to go, go, go. But wisdom says to use patience. Slow down. Wait. It will be worth it when the waiting pays off.
Patience grows people, then organizations. Building an organization takes time. And before an organization can be developed, you have to grow people. Wise leaders know this and use patience appropriately. Some don’t, and their attempts fail. In an article about Patience in Leadership on Inc.com, Eric Holtzclawe wrote, “But as you move through your entrepreneurial journey, pay close attention to the pressure you are applying. Is it consistent, purposeful pressure like that needed to create a diamond? Or are you using the brute force of a sledgehammer?”
If you want to be the best leader you can be, foster the characteristic of patience. Slow down and be deliberate. Most leaders, ironically, are not patient people. The tendency is to get it done and get it done now. But, if you are looking to become the best you can be in leadership, recognize the importance of patience. Take time and be an outstanding leader by having patience.