Is Patience a Leadership Competency?

Is Patience a Leadership Competency?

Mary Jo Asmus has been getting a terrific response to her recent blog post, “Is Kindness a Leadership Competency?” — especially on Twitter. The post is one of her finest, and to quote her Twitter friends, Mary Jo really struck a chord with the idea that kindness is an important quality in leadership. The answer to her question: a resounding “Yes.”

I thought about Mary Jo’s question throughout the day today, but with a new slant. My day required a lot of patience. In my frustration over my toddler’s hour long screaming tantrum this morning, I sent Mary Jo a message. Her reply, “Maybe you can get a posting out of it (patience? understanding?).”

So here’s my twist on Mary Jo’s question: Is Patience a Leadership Competency?

A person may be equipped with the best skills and knowledge in their field, with an impressive resume to match. Without patience, though, they might never accomplish their goals.

Example: Joe Harner, one of the “volunteers” on the Discovery Channel’s new show “Out of the Wild: The Alaska Experience.” The objective on this reality show is for the volunteers to find their way out of the wild of Alaska, hiking over 60 miles with limited supplies. According to his biography, Harner is the most experienced outdoorsman of the group. By resume alone, you might expect him to be the leader.

The one thing he lacks: patience. Just five days into the trek, Joe quits. Why? He had hoped to push himself to the limits. Grouped with others who lack his physical stamina and backwoods know-how, Joe decides he would rather end his journey than be forced to keep their pace.

People need patience for the countless situations every day. Today alone I needed patience for:

  • my cranky toddler and her inconsolable screaming.
  • her sisters, who wanted my attention at the height of their sibling’s meltdown.
  • computer issues, as I worked to make changes to the blog’s sidebars.
  • the frustrating circumstance of arriving at our neighborhood post office to find that it has been closed down, permanently.
  • the equally difficult experience of the endless line at the next-closest post office.
  • city traffic.
  • the neighbors who were blocking the alley when I returned home this afternoon. After many minutes of waiting, and one honk of my horn, I had to get out of the car to ask them to move.

In the business world, the circumstances requiring patience are different, but they’re only variations on the same theme. We need patience for people, who may not behave the way want them to; for circumstances, often beyond our control; and for technology, with glitches and shutdowns that are unpredictable.

Without patience, we may not push through to the long-term results we desire. If we give up on people, we miss out on opportunities to help them grow. Not only that, we also short circuit our own growth. In business, we may work with people who need extra attention and care. Dealing patiently with them is the best way to help them through those tough moments. It is impossible to control all the circumstances and technology that can thwart our goal; in that case too, the only thing to do is to apply generous doses of patience.

Day to day, we need patience for a thousand seemingly small things. But those small things along the way are needed for progress toward a larger goal. When we practice patience, we learn perseverance. Since all great accomplishments take time, we need to be patient enough, to persevere enough, to see our dreams take shape. Otherwise, we may be tempted to give up too soon and miss the happy endings to our own stories.

This post was originally published at Mountain State University Leadertalk and is republished here with permission.

Filed As:  patience, leadership

About Becky Robinson

I am the owner of Weaving Influence and the leader of the Weaving Influence team. We help authors and thought leaders grow their online influence. I am also a wife and mom of three daughters, and I enjoy running, reading, writing, a good cup of coffee, and dark chocolate.

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What People Are Saying

  • Patience and kindness are human virtues necessary to interacting in a positive and civilized manner.
    So maybe what ‘leaders’ need to do is start out by being human, leading only whan it makes sense and knowing that they aren’t above ‘the rest of us’.

  • Good reminder, Miki; leaders are just people willing to step forward and use their influence to make a difference. Not superheroes, just people.

  • Thanks for a fine and thoughtful post, Becky. But my life experience and research tell me that there are good bosses out there who are not patient.
    In my research on top performing supervisors I studied people who were judged excellent by their bosses, their peers and their subordinates. Over the years, I’ve seen many great supervisors in action and they come with a wide variety of temperaments. Some were patient. Some were not.
    I think that, as bosses, we want to be the best boss and human being we can be. What we can’t do is remake our basic nature. You have to recognize what you do well and poorly. You have to find ways to make your weaknesses irrelevant. You have to make sure that the most important supervisory work gets done.

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