Good Habits #27: Have Patience

By | November 17, 2016

[November 17, 2016]  Leaders are trained to be and experienced in being proactive; aggressively pursuing missions, tasks, and goals is expected and good.  Inaction is shunned like Joan of Arc who was burned at the stake in 1431.  Great leadership means patience and knowing when to employ the precise timing of rare, aggressive action.

“Patience is not an absence of action; rather it is timing. It waits on the right time to act.” – Fulton J. Sheen, American Catholic Bishop

What leaders do in their roles does require time; sometimes lots of time.  No wonder so many people say that being a good leader is so difficult.  It means balancing action with patience … or so they think.  “Action” and “patience” are not mutually exclusive concepts for leaders.  The best leaders know that patience means giving the time for their guidance, policies, decisions, etc. to take effect.

I’m reminded of what I was told by a famous four-star general at my education as a new general, “Making decisions is easy but it’s the epitome of great generalship to have the patience for the right moment in which it is most productive to act.”  All of us recently promoted after being a Colonel for years had been force-fed the idea that action-action-action is the winning methodology to get things done and done right.  At the Flag officer level, however, that is not the case.

Senior leaders must have patience and only through practiced guarded action will they be truly successful.  I’m reminded of the history of U.S. Army General Dwight Eisenhower who, as the Supreme Allied Commander, exercised restraint and patience to ready his invasion forces that went ashore on June 6th, 1944.  German Nazi generals were caught by surprise as D-Day began the day mainland Europe was to be liberated.

Leaders who fail to practice patience will see their leadership diminished.  Too many are apt to make decisions that junior leaders should make (sending the message that the senior leader does not trust those less senior), making decisions without all the information available (unnecessarily risky), or before circumstances change.  Waiting for the right moment is the better tactic.

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Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.