Impatience as a Leadership Virtue

Published: Jan 24, 2019
Modified: Mar 25, 2020

By Karin Hurt

“Karin, we should be able to have this project done by the end of the year.”

I listened impatiently as the team broke down the timeline, contingencies, and tasks. They were the experts, and the project involved heavy IT lift—never fun. I also knew they could do more.

My next words made us all cringe, “We just don’t have until the end of the year. What’s possible by October?” It turns out, quite a lot. They’ll nail it….

Impatience is seldom on the short list of leadership competencies. People don’t hire coaches to help them become more impatient. Patience is a virtue. Impatience gets more done. It’s my daily wrestling match.

Push Possiblity, Inspire People

Great leaders are impatient with…

  • Possibility
  • The status quo
  • Problems
  • Stagnating results
  • Naysayers
  • Delays
  • Time wasters
  • Games
  • Gossip
  • ?

Four Ways to Inspire Through Impatience

  1. Don’t be a jerk
    Impatience only works when combined with other important characteristics (e.g., trust, humility, relationships). Understand the consequences of the pressure. Are you driving the team to extreme hours, or sloppy short-cuts? Roll up your sleeves and serve.
  2. Be patient when needed
    Use impatience sparingly on what matters most. Inspire passionate urgency toward your vision. Cut some slack on the small stuff. Prioritize and back off other tasks as needed to make way for the sprint.
  3. Explain why
    Urgency without explanation frustrates. Ensure the team understands how the urgency links to the bigger picture.
  4. Go slow to go fast
    Take the time up front to think things through. Come out of the gate slow and involve the right players. Ask provocative questions.

Sure patience is a virtue. However, done well, so is impatience.

If you’d like to further explore some of the ideas in this article, consider these AMA seminars:

The Voice of Leadership: How Leaders Inspire, Influence and Achieve Results

Achieving Leadership Success Through People

The 5 Choices to Extraordinary Productivity™

About the Author(s)

Karin Hurt is founder of Let’s Grow Leaders. She has a diverse background of executive leadership experience in sales, customer service, human resources, merger integration, training and leadership development.