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Impatience as a Leadership Virtue

Tuesday, December 10, 2013
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Patience is the support of weakness; impatience the ruin of strength.
–Charles Caleb Colton

"Karin, we should be able to have this project done by the end of the year." I listened impatiently as the team broke down the timeline, contingencies, and tasks. They were the experts, and the project involved heavy IT lift. I also knew they could do more.

My next words made us all cringe, "We just don't have until the end of the year.  What's possible by October?" It turns out, quite a lot. They'll nail it...

Impatience is seldom on the short list of leadership competencies. People don't hire coaches to help them become more impatient. Patience is a virtue. Impatience gets more done.  It's my daily wrestling match.

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In fact, great leaders are impatient with...

  • possibility
  • the status quo
  • problems
  • stagnating results
  • naysayers
  • delays
  • time wasters
  • games
  • gossip. 

Four ways to inspire through impatience

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  1. Don't be a jerk. Impatience only works combined with other important characteristics, such as trust, humility, and relationship building.  Understand the consequences of the pressure. Are you driving the team to extreme hours, or sloppy short-cuts? Roll up your sleeves and serve. 
  2. Be patient when needed. Use impatience sparingly on what matters most.  Inspire passionate urgency toward your vision. Cut some slack on the small stuff.  Prioritize and back off other tasks as needed to make way for the sprint.
  3. Explain why. Urgency without explanation frustrates. Ensure the team understands how the urgency links to the bigger picture.
  4. Go slow to go fast. Take the time up front to think things through. Come out of the gate slow and involve the right players. Ask provocative questions.

Sure, patience is a virtue. But  done well, so is impatience. Your thoughts? 

About the Author

Karin Hurt, founder of Let’s Grow Leaders, helps leaders around the world achieve breakthrough results without losing their soul. A former Verizon Wireless executive, she has more than two decades of experience in sales, customer service, and HR. She was recently named on Inc.'s list of 100 Great Leadership Speakers and American Management Association's 50 Leaders to Watch. She’s the author of 3 books: Winning Well: A Manager's Guide to Getting Results-Without Losing Your Soul, Overcoming an Imperfect Boss, and Glowstone Peak.

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