Don’t Stop Here

Becoming a More Patient Leader

Leading effectively — especially during a crisis — takes patience. If you can’t retain your composure in the face of frustration or adversity, you won’t be able to keep others calm.

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When your direct reports show signs of strain, you need to support them, not get irritated. Solutions to new challenges usually take time to put into practice. However, many leaders don’t have patience and don’t know how to find it. They want quick fixes and can’t wait for strategies to take hold. This tendency is only reinforced by our agile digital work world, which seems to prize hyperspeed.

How can leaders boost their patience?

If you want to build your patience, you need to recognize when it might be tested the most. If you know a challenge is coming, you can be more mindful about increasing your efforts to stay calm. A good way to manage the pressure you feel from the clock ticking is to reframe how you perceive time. Here are some helpful strategies:

Redefine the meaning of speed. The U.S. Navy SEALs are known for their saying “Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast.” These rapid-response special forces teams are paradoxically methodical and patient in both planning and executing their time-critical missions. They have learned over 60 years of operating in crisis situations that working at a slow and smooth pace reduces mistakes and re-dos and in the end speeds up the mission. In short, they have learned that leaders shouldn’t “confuse operational speed (moving quickly) with strategic speed (reducing the time it takes to deliver value).” And this of course means that leaders need to clearly define what delivering value means from the start.

Thank your way to patience. Gratitude has powerful effects on a wide range of our attitudes and behaviors. For example, keeping a journal about things you are thankful for increases generosity with others and lowers stress. It is no wonder then that gratitude may also positively spill over to our ability to demonstrate patience. Research in experimental psychology has found when people feel more grateful, they are better at delaying gratification and are more patient.

In the middle of a crisis, it may be hard to feel grateful. However, as you practice gratitude – perhaps by keeping a journal or just by being mindful of the progress made by others – you may find hidden opportunities for thankfulness. Then, when you know something will trigger your impatience, you can take a moment to reflect on what is going well and what you’ve learned or have the potential to learn from the crisis.

The bottom line is, effective leadership behaviors are enhanced by a show of  patience. Engage patiently and you will see increases in your reports’ creativity, productivity, and collaboration. Rush and, sadly, you won’t see many benefit.

Source: Harvard Business Review

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