Most leaders would agree that the pressures and expectations of business have increased dramatically in the last decade. Results, profits, and value for shareholders often take top priority, and it seems everyone wants everything faster. With technology evolving quickly and the drive to do more with less, many leaders act like things can be accomplished with the push of a button, and when they’re not, they demand answers.
In the process, leaders lose sight of treating people with understanding and support, which burdens everyone with stress and dissatisfaction. Leaders who are unfamiliar with the specifics of how projects are accomplished lack one of the most powerful management tools: patience.
The Misnomers About Patience
Everyone seems to want instant rewards. The reality of instantaneous reward is seldom realistic. The more complex the circumstances, the more time required to implement true solutions. Patience is the combination of understanding that many things take time and the willingness to allow that to play out.
In this fast-paced culture, patience is often seen as an inability to act. This stems from the incorrect assumptions that all direction is immediately evident, or all choices are obvious or no deadline ever dare be missed. Seasoned leaders know better.
When a leader takes time to choose a direction it isn’t always because of insecurity or the inability to grasp the specifics. Getting to the bottom of things often takes great effort and time to assure the most effective decisions can be made. Accounting for past lessons learned is also a significant process. Many corporate directions have failed because plans were rushed.
Another incorrect view of patience is common with that of other “soft” skills; they are associated with leadership weakness. Leadership expert Ritch Eich describes in Industry Week how patience is lumped into the same category as empathy, approachability, listening and transparency. The old-school mindset leads from intimidation, ego and control with little to no consideration of employee needs. In subservient cultures under old-school leaders, workers have little say and few options.
Today, great leaders recognize that employees don’t put up with this. Talented people are hard to find, and retention is key for success. The old leadership mindset requires an entire paradigm shift; respect and support of employees is critical. Soft skills, including patience, are now employed by the best leaders to engage and inspire employees. They know productivity is vitally dependent on employee satisfaction. People on the receiving end of impatience won’t take long to dislike their jobs and find a better one somewhere else. Leaders who have patience are among those who forge the strongest teams and succeed from that strength.
Patience is seen by many as slowing things down, risking the quick completion of critical projects. Impatient leaders see a need to keep the pace of progress hot; they make rapid decisions in order to obtain rapid results. In reality, haste generally raises the likelihood of mistakes and oversights. This can cause major delays when work needs to be redone or cleaned-up. Paradoxically, slowing things down can speed productivity. A leader’s patience in getting things right offers an effective use of time and talent.
Patience for Positive Change
Thankfully, many leaders have recognized the need to change their cultures. Bottom-line priorities of profits and market share are no longer goals unto themselves, but a result of a healthy employee culture. Satisfied and engaged workers enhance the organization and dramatically boost the chances for success.
Change is critical, and it is difficult. People resist it. Wise leaders know that change takes time. Culture shifts can’t be rushed without suffering. Transitioning from close-mindedness to open-mindedness, from a “good-enough” approach to one of excellence, or from market follower to market leader all require a thorough and deliberate process. Patience is needed to allow people to adapt, retrain, rethink and become convinced of the benefits to the company and themselves.
Many cultures are exclusive, patterned after the “old-boy” club where leaders have all the say and privileges and employees are excluded from the decision tree. A top leader needs great patience to turn this around, where employees are included and accepted and a political system becomes more equitable. This may include replacing some leaders who can’t (or won’t) make the needed changes in character. It all takes time to be done carefully.
Change also breeds conflict. Resolving conflict properly requires the patience to listen and work through difficulties, especially ones centering on personalities. Getting to root causes takes time, as does finding the best workable solutions. Many times, the causes lie under the surface, unseen under the layers that need to be peeled away like an onion. The process is one of stepping back to assess, followed by continuous adjustment and understanding, all under the guidance of the leader.
Typical everyday problem solving also requires a leader’s patience to accurately evaluate the situation and guide everyone to a common solution. Sometimes solutions need to be revised to work out the kinks. Rushing this process often causes more difficulty than the original problem.
Patience for Continued Growth
Fulfilling a vision for an organization requires planning, risk, communication, commitment, motivation, engagement and patience. None of this can be rushed. Great leaders make the critical assessments and necessary adjustments, take the appropriate pauses, provide the crucial resources and guidance and allow people the time to adopt new ways. Many corporate plans are dashed when results are forced too quickly. Haste breeds resistance and resentment. Visions are rarely achieved under those disadvantages. As business strategist Glenn Llopis asserts in Forbes, patience is a great sign of a leader’s maturity.
Leaders must also be relationship builders if they are to succeed. No plans, changes or growth are accomplished without the teamwork and unity that strong relationships afford. It’s been said that good leadership requires good followership. In other words, without inspiring people to follow and contribute, a leader can make no progress. Followers are developed only through meaningful and gratifying relationships. This is a slow, deliberate process. Leaders who have the patience to connect with their people can develop the relationships that are critical to meeting their objectives.
Relationship-building involves time-consuming activities like listening, offering and receiving feedback, personal coaching and mentoring. The trust earned in these processes permits the influence a leader needs to prosper their organization.
All of these circumstances involve highs and lows, trials and victories. Leaders with the determination to stay the course, stick to their values and see the changes through come out on top. Patience is a leader’s greatest tool on this journey. A motivated and empowered staff bolsters the rewards that make a leader’s patience well worth having.