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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Thanks for this thought provoking post. You can certainly define leadership in any way that you care to (everyone else seems to do so). However, when you said that the “… purpose of leadership…” equals “inspiring others to go beyond what they can accomplish by themselves,” I had to wonder how that plays against “going out ahead and showing the way.” Don’t get me wrong. I have no problem with leaders taking on the responsibility to provide inspiration. It’s just that inspiration seems to represent more of a desired outcome of leadership than it does an actual construct of the leadership process, per se. I know that a counter argument might include something like, “what leaders in their right minds wouldn’t want to inspire their followers.” My answer would include, “followers who neither require nor desire inspiration from their leaders.”
Additionally, as someone who’s done more following than many people have done leading, I can tell you, without reservation, that all of the benefits to leaders that you attributed to patience, also apply to followers — and pretty much for the same reasons. For example, you said: “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.” I would counter by saying: “if your team leaders know they can try something new or make a few mistakes during the learning process without the team members losing total respect for those leaders, they are set-up for success.” Therefore, I posit that patience represents a likely desired attribute of all members of all organizations — not just leaders; and that a lack of said patience on anyone’s part could result in equally negative (or positive?) consequences.
I’ve written several posts around these issues (and I actually have a couple of more planned for sometime in the next couple of weeks). Check one at: http://leadershipopportunities.blogspot.com/2015/01/does-follower-development-represent-a.html
GRBW, thank you for your reply. My apologies for the delay in my response. I could not agree with you more that patience applies equally to both the leader and the followers. Knowing you can try something to improve the organization without fear of ridicule can open many new horizons. Regarding your comment that not all followers require inspiring leaders, you have a good point. Leadership is an art, requiring the practitioner to apply his talents and techniques differently to each group of followers. A leader may have to be very directive at times, while simply responsible for removing roadblocks of a driven team at others.