blogging about DIRECT LEADERSHIP

Is patience a leadership virtue?

with one comment

My friend and business partner, Monica Diaz (owner of Quidam Global in Mexico) raised the question this week on LinkedIn.

Being a bit of a word fetishist, this  question is for me a delight. A temptation to indulge in the etymology of this human characteristic that we all know and often apply – generally assuming that we all agree that it is a virtue.

At the same time, I truly enjoy working with people whom some would consider impatient. Why? Because I appreciate decisive go-getters. People who make up their minds and act.

With this in mind I was further intrigued by some of the comments that immediately confirmed the general perception: “YES, patience is definitely a virtue and leaders should therefore display more of it.”

So my mind started going: Wait a minute… Is patience purely a virtue? Is it always a virtue? Is it sometimes not a virtue? Can impatience be a virtue?

When taking a closer look at both terms: patient and impatient, my suspicion was confirmed. Humanity is not in complete accord that one is purely good and the other is only bad.

On the one hand, the etymology of the words patience and patient speak about the ability to endure or suffer, damage, hurt, injure without complaint.

On the other hand, one of the most common families of flowers found everywhere on the planet bears the Latin name of “impatiens”, which refers both to how quickly the plant grows, how abundantly it blossoms – and to the way its seeds fruits burst in a small explosion, which sends seeds out in all directions.Impatiens Walleriana (Source: Google).

Let me now connect this back to leadership – in particular to everyday leadership and the Direct Leadership model, which together constitute the hub of this blog.


Patience, engraving by Hans Sebald Beham, 1540 (Source: Wikipedia)



Question: Is patience then a virtue in relation to everyday leadership?


It all depends on how you assess the situation and choose to act upon it.

Does the situation that has caught your attention relate to the short term or the long term?
Are you looking at something that you want to cultivate over a period? For instance by means of the Coach style?

May impatience at times be considered equally virtuous?
Absolutely – some issues require that you act without delay.

At times you are looking at a critical situation, which calls for an urgent Initiator style intervention. At other times you have a harmful or counterproductive situation on your hands, which must urgently be brought to an end with a Referee style intervention.

In the latter situations impatience is infinitely more virtuous than its generally celebrated counterpart. As a leader, you should not measure your success by your ability to ”bear or endure suffering without complaint”.
Instead, you must act in ways which prevent, reduce or mend suffering in favour of creating productive teamwork, goal achievement, decisions, career development, etc.

And for this to happen, patience and impatience should be considered as two different gears to be applied according to the situation and your intention.

 Impatiens Walleriana (Source: Google) – enjoy its beauty! 


One Response

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  1. If patience permits the work avoidance of the group, then is the worst possible action to take!


    Jorge A Diaz

    November 13, 2011 at 21:17

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