Leadership – on Patience

A dear friend recently counselled me:

“Patience, my friend, is when nothing happens and you are ok with it.”

I loved this. That friend also noted to me that in so many areas of life (including in my roles with clients as a sounding board, coach etc) I am patience personified, yet I’m a human and we all have our gaps, and in one or two areas of life I can be pretty impatient.

This counsel was and is most valuable, and it also had me think about patience for leaders.

For many years, I built, managed, led businesses, and for much of that time everything was go, go, go !

In business, we are on a hamster wheel, and typically the focus is on moving quickly, making quick decisions, taking quick actions being responsive.

It has been ever thus, and then with email and latterly messaging platforms, the tendency to be impatient and to feed the need for speed has only increased.

One extreme for me is the famous “blue ticks” on the ubiquitous Whatsapp messaging platform, meaning that people know as soon as you have read their message, increasing the pressure on you and from them to respond right away. Personally, I chose to disable notifications on Whatsapp, as I appreciate being asynchronous with messaging, I’ll reply when ready, thanks!

So, back to my friend and:

“Patience, my friend, is when nothing happens and you are ok with it.”

This came about around an area of my life where I’ve yet to learn patience, hence my friend counselling me.

I love that definition, and my mind turned to business and to leadership.

As a coach, I have been trained to listen before responding, to give “full body listening” and then listen some more, then more still, all before giving any response. I’ve found the more patient I am, often the more powerful the conversation is.

In business, events will happen that tend to create pressure for immediate response, yet we can all recall situations where consciously taking time before responding can lead to better outcomes.

Empirically, one of the greatest investors in business of all time is Warren Buffett.

To paraphrase him:

“the easiest way to make money is to think longer term than the next person”

Or, an actual quote from him (taken from his mentor, Benjamin Graham):

“In the short term, the market is a popularity contest. In the long term, the market is a weighing machine.”

Often in business and leadership, the tendency is to act fast, to react to the impatient tendencies in ourselves and those influencing us.

It takes emotional and intellectual security, allied often with a real degree of bravery, to be patient when others are impatient.

As the leader of your own life and of others around you, consider your own balance between where it is valuable to move fast, and where it is of more value to be patient, and remember:

“Patience, my friend, is when nothing happens and you are ok with it.”

And, in closing, readers know I love to synthesise ideas across different areas of learning.  Someone who wrote often about patience was Rumi, and this one has resonance in the context of patience around action and decision making.

rumi on patience