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Impatience: Why It’s a Leader’s Biggest Downfall
Impatience defeats critical thinking and optimal decision-making. Leaders who “get things done” may seem like decisive, assertive leaders, but if impatience is their driver, they are likely aggressive rather than assertive. Aggression breeds resentment, disengagement, and high employee turnover.
An indispensable component of human nature, impatience is a controversial trait. Some, like Xerox’s Ursula Burns, may call it a virtue under certain circumstances. Others see it as the bane of wise people, causing them to do foolish things.
From the perspective of leadership coaching and intelligent leadership, impatience is an attempt to force life to deliver answers. People trying to wring answers out of life instead of allowing them to unfold at their own pace find that impatience is a weakness.
Impatience is the mother of mistakes.
Impatience Gets Things Done
Instant gratification is a plague of modern society. In our quest to satisfy our desires as quickly as possible, we have grown to appreciate those who “get things done.” Sometimes, in the context of leadership, patience may come across as dithering. Leaders who “make things happen” exude strength and charisma. Such doers are often organizational drivers who finish projects and push others to complete them as well.
Highly driven leaders are result-oriented, ambitious, and eager to swing into action. If impatience is the source of these leadership virtues, what’s wrong with it?
The Pitfalls of Impatience in Leadership
Impatient leaders don’t have a monopoly on “getting things done.” Intelligent leaders who control their impatience complete items by being assertive. Impatient leaders, on the other hand, allow their weaknesses to make them aggressive.
The differences between aggressiveness and assertiveness set good leaders apart from those for whom no one wants to work.
The Advantages of Assertiveness
Unlike aggressive communication, an assertive leadership style is firm, yet respectful and clear. Assertive leaders find it easier to:
- Build meaningful relationships predicated on trust and mutual respect
- Resolve conflicts quickly and effectively
- Escape common traps of leadership like anxiety, loneliness, and helplessness
- Build their self-esteem
- Make requests and express their wants and needs confidently
Aggressive Communication Sabotages Leadership
Aggressive communication is self-centered. An aggressive leader goes into a meeting with an agenda and will push that agenda regardless of how other participants feel about it. The difference between assertive and aggressive leaders is that the latter don’t care about other viewpoints and won’t bother to show respect.
Aggressive communication begets adverse reactions. The stakeholders whom the aggressive leader dominates respond with passive aggression, resentment, and anger. Seeking genuine feedback from such parties may be futile. Since the communication is one-way only, there’s no trust, and a lack of trust translates to insincere feedback, disengagement, dissatisfaction, high employee turnover, and (in extreme cases) litigation.
Compliance is seldom a problem for aggressive leaders, but it comes at a steep price.
The role of a leader is to motivate, empower, and engage employees. You can’t achieve any of these objectives through aggression.
The Dangers of Hasty Decisions
Business coaching understands the importance of critical thinking in decision-making. Deliberation may seem like dithering and indecision, but the best leaders know that, barring an emergency, hasty decisions are never optimal.
Critical thinking takes time. Decisions born out of impatience are impulsive and emotion based.
Critical thinking requires leaders to:
- Ask questions and gather relevant information
- Analyze information from diverse perspectives
- Consider several conclusions and solutions and weigh them carefully
- Explore alternative solutions and methods of addressing problems
- Communicate effectively and clearly throughout the process
Critical thinking is incompatible with impatience.
Critical thinkers are ready to reconsider their interpretations of situations based on new data, analyses, and discoveries. They make conscious efforts to separate personal opinions from what they perceive as facts. Impatience is incompatible with critical thinking and optimal decision-making.
Executive coaching can help leaders recognize their impatience triggers and assess the degree to which impatience impairs their leadership. By identifying the thoughts impatience triggers in their minds, leaders can exert control over their thinking.