The P word you should probably be more of sometimes

We all have our own truism’s about leadership. One of the most significant leadership attributes in my mind, and one I don’t think gets talked about enough, is patience. The time pressured environments we work in today reward decisiveness and quick action, and our patience is continually tested.

Patience is probably one of the most significant attributes of a leader.

Being patient is hard when it’s a conscious choice. We’re wired to react when things happen around us. What do you react to that requires patience? My children are my biggest cause of my patience wearing thin. At the point I feel most frustrated, when I just want to take control, choosing patience means that I step back, listen, see the world from their eyes, take a deep breath, and choose a better way to manage the situation. Sometimes, though, the need for control wins out. Ego diminishes our patience when we want to, for example, be right and justify our actions.

Patience is the art of concealing your impatience – Guy Kawasaki

Here are three leadership realities that put patience into practice. In other words, where patience means:

1. Acknowledging that things aren’t working in the timeframe you think it is or want it to

Timing is everything in leadership. Things don’t always happen in your preferred timeframe. Why? Because how we see things isn’t necessarily how they are. Our perceptions of where we think things are at, and where people are at, aren’t always accurate. While we might know the logical next steps, if we, for example, don’t have people ready to follow us, we’re going for a walk on our own.

The art of leadership is about pausing and asking, “Is this the right time for me to do this now”? – Kylie Bishop, Group Executive, Medibank

Your ability to read the cues, think about the consequences and consider alternatives is key to getting the timing right. A different timeframe with a better result will usually be worth the wait.

2. Leading others from where they are, not from where you are or where you expect them to be.

Our assumptions, biases, beliefs and past reference points all impact how we think. As leaders, we’ve often had the benefit of time and experience to see things in greater context. It’s easy to assume that people think like us and want to act in line with our expectations. They don’t necessarily. People see a situation through their own thinking set.

Patience is coaching and leading someone from where their thinking is at, rather then expecting them to see things the way you do and leading them from there.

3. Holding the space in a conversation through a lens of curiosity, rather than taking a position too soon

Shutting up and listening. Do you do enough of it?

The degree to which you can influence others is the degree to which your thinking can be influenced. 

Seeing different perspectives, appreciating how others are feeling, understanding different points of will help your sound judgement be formed.

4. Saying the same message in different ways

Tasks without purpose lack meaning. Meaning helps people connect in emotionally to their work. Your leadership narratives to remind your team why they’re there, where they’re going with you, and why the journey matters are important. Patience means saying the same thing in different ways and doing this for your entire career.

Bringing it all together

The patience to move forward or hold back takes self-awareness, sound judgement and emotional awareness. Which one of these four practices could you give more patience to and what difference would that make? I’d love to know.

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