One moment of patience may ward off great disaster. One moment of impatience may ruin a whole life.
As I sit here awaiting transportation home after a year in Afghanistan, I am reminded of yet another quality critical to good leadership…patience. When trying to get somewhere utilizing the military transportation system, we have to put on our patience hat and go to our happy place. Like a giant redwood tree that takes centuries to reach its full potential, good things come to those who wait.
Reflecting on my twenty-two years in the military, I find that my favorite leaders have been those with high expectations tempered with a healthy dose of patience. Leading people often involves tremendous patience. As a leader, your subordinates will sometimes make mistakes. The meeting will not go as planned or the product will arrive behind schedule. It is often easier to just do the job yourself and get the task accomplished, but this defeats the purpose of leadership…inspiring others to go beyond what they can accomplish by themselves.
If the leader just completes the task himself, no learning takes place. Plus, he does not have the time to do everything. Additionally, what happens when the leader is not there? Can the team function by itself? It can if the leader has been exercising patience by allowing the team to fail and learn from mistakes. The reward for patience is a team that can accomplish the mission on its own. As Aristotle said, “Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet.”
Harkening back to a previous blog, demonstrating patience to your team creates a trusting environment. If your team members know they can try something new or make a few mistakes during the learning process without being reprimanded by the leader, they are set-up for success. It often takes many attempts before success is achieved. One of the smartest men in history, Albert Einstein, said it best, “It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.“ Ask any teacher and she will say patience is the key to success in the classroom. A teacher must have patience while his students try, fail and try again as they learn. One of your roles as a leader is to be a teacher to those you lead. Your working example molds the image of leadership in your people’s minds. They will use that image as a model on which to base their leadership. Make it a good template!
As easy as it is to say “Be patient”, it is extremely difficult to put it into practice for most type A personalities. I can speak from personal experience as to how hard it is to override my instincts to take over and complete a task from my subordinates if they make a mistake. Resist the urge! Take a deep breath, put on your patience hat and redirect that energy into ensuring the lesson is learned and not repeated.
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