I was reading something today that encouraged leaders to be patient with difficult people, specifically with people who ‘get in their way.’ On the surface, this made sense to me, but at the same time it bothered me. As I thought about why, I came to this conclusion.
I think patience is something leaders try to lean on when their focus is really on the wrong thing. These leaders think it is important to be patient with people who are not fully on board with the vision they have cast, are not fully heading in the right direction, are basically not following well. The problem with this, as I see it, is those leaders are too focused on their vision, on what they want to see done, on something other than the people they are supposed to be leading.
Having a vision is important for any leader, but it cannot take the place of that leader’s understanding of his or her purpose and mission, which is not to achieve some goal or realize some vision – it is to lead people. The purpose and mission of those people is the goal and vision, but the leader’s is the people themselves. So when I see leaders getting frustrated with people (because those folks need some leadership) I know that leader has yet to understand that his or her very existence as a leader depends on such people who need to be led.
The leader is getting frustrated with what is really the core of his or her job – to lead people. That would be like a chef who gets frustrated that food needs cooking or that people are hungry. If the food didn’t need cooking or if people weren’t hungry, we wouldn’t need you, chef. If not for the people you need patience for, i.e., those who need leading, we wouldn’t need you, leader.
Leaders don’t need patience nearly as much as they need to care more about the people they are leading than anything they want to achieve. Develop your people into achievers, then you will have led well.
[Btw, I’m not saying leaders don’t need patience at all (despite my attempt at a provocative title), but they don’t need to use patience as a cop out merely to tolerate people they can’t stand.]