Leadership Basics: Building Patience

In my previous blog (https://www.withleadership.co/post/leadership-death-knell-lack-of-patience), I shared about a colleague who was looking for a different job because of the stress caused by his leader’s lack of patience.

In digging deeper into my colleague’s situation, it was clear that the following areas suffered due to lack of leader patience. I’m also clear that these aren’t the only fatalities of this scenario, but these are obvious ones:

  • Training: The point of training is to ensure processes are learned quickly and thoroughly to maintain and/or improve a system, customer experience, etc. Good training requires quality interaction between trainer and trainee. Quality interaction stands on a foundation of trust. A level of trust in training ensures questions are answered satisfactorily (even if they are repeats), open communication is maintained, and mistakes can be addressed without belittling the person.

  • Communication: Frequently, communication stops when a leader loses patience. Why? Because lack of patience creates a volatile situation in which the follower is uncertain how the leader will react. A natural response is to assume the leader will blow up, because that is what has occurred in the past, and therefore communication will be avoided as much as possible. In truth, communication will only happen if the follower determines the lack of communication will be more damaging than the risk of an impatient or harsh response. This generates an uncomfortable and ultimately unsafe environment. The followers do not feel safe asking questions because they are worried they may be attacked rather than the problem.

  • Trust: Leadership literature outlines a highly common foundational construct of trust. As we’ve identified, an inpatient leader provides poor training and stifles communication, both of which break down or prevent trust. If trust does not exist success is not an option. Lack of trust also guarantees the employee is looking elsewhere and will jump ship as soon as the opportunity arises.

  • Quality: In order to have a high quality outcome, the input and internal work must be of high quality as well. If training, communication, and trust suffer, then it is guaranteed that quality will not exist with any type of consistency. People like to take pride in their work, and poor quality outcomes will ensure turnover.

We may agree that leadership patience is paramount, but is it possible to grow patience, and if so, how do we do it?


NBC News wrote an article in 2019 that shares some good news: it’s possible to build patience (https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.nbcnews.com/better/amp/ncna1022356).

Here are three ways to increase patience:

  • Identify when you feel rushed or impatient and think through the reasons behind it. Being intentional about learning which emotions you are feeling and the underlying cause will allow you to separate emotion from action when it is important to enact a patient response. For the authentic leader, this is called self awareness and it is the work of a lifetime.

  • Force yourself to step back and look at the larger picture. In other words, try to put yourself in someone else’s shoes to see it from their perspective. Frequently, impatience rises when we focus on self and what isn’t going right for us. Looking outside of ourselves allows for understanding of many more intricate and important components that need to be considered for a successful outcome, namely where others stand. Authentic leadership theory calls this balanced processing.

  • Consider the long-term vision and stay focused on that purpose. If we keep our eyes on the prize, the stumbling blocks of today won’t be as frustrating and cause such high levels of impatience.






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