Effective leaders are often described as “passionate.” They’re passionate about their cause, the way they guide their teams, and the impact they make in others’ lives. But patient? That’s not typically a word people associate with business owners, executives, or managers. Yet, contrary to popular belief, patience and passion are remarkably similar.
Patience is more than just a virtue, it’s an emotionally intelligent way of leading others. Those who use patience to their advantage are more likely to make better decisions for the greater good, lead in an ethical manner, and build sustainable companies designed for long-term success.
With this in mind, learn what patience is, how it connects to passion, and ways to increase it.
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The Connection Between Patience and Passion
Most business professionals would rank passion as one of the top leadership traits among entrepreneurs and executives. In an article for Harvard Business Review, Jon M. Jachimowicz, an assistant professor at Harvard, found 90 percent of surveyed Columbia Business School MBA students believed “pursuing their passion” was important. But what does passion even mean? To understand passion, a person needs to study patience, and how the two connect.
What is Patience?
The definition of “patience” is directly tied to perseverance and tolerance during times of long-standing suffering. The word used in today’s English comes from the Latin verb pati, which means “to suffer, endure, allow or permit.”
What is Passion?
Like patience, passion also stems from pati. While most people correlate passion with heightened, often uncontrollable emotion, in this context “following your passion” takes on a new meaning. The closest translation of passion is being so strongly committed to something that a person would willingly suffer, even over a long period of time, for their belief. This is why the word passion is used in describing Jesus’ crucifixion, and the lives of various martyrs.
Passion Requires Patience
In this sense, patience is the state of being for passionate people. Although this seems like an oxymoron, based on the original meanings of both words, it isn’t. Without patience, a person cannot truly follow their passion. By practicing patience, business leaders, executives, and high performers can lead from a posture of perseverance and endurance for the causes they truly feel passionate about.
Effects of Impatience as a Business Leader
Leadership expert Simon Sinek writes in The Infinite Game, people must shift their mentality away from seeing business as a finite game that leads to a winner or a loser. Instead, he says business is an infinite game. This means there are no clear rules or players. In fact, the purpose of the game is to keep playing, not to stop and declare someone a champion after a certain amount of time. Leaders who coach their teams in infinite games cannot keep moving forward without patience and passion as defined above.
Without patience, leaders are more susceptible to:
- Work burnout due to a lack of true passion.
- Losing hope during trying times.
- Experiencing work stress and work anxiety.
- Failing to allow their people and organization time to develop.
- Reacting to others in emotionally unintelligent ways.
- Making choices out of self-interest.
- Missing the meaning behind important life lessons.
Ultimately, leading without patience is an ineffective way to guide a team as they fulfill the company’s mission. For example, creating unreasonable performance standards in the interest of time results in employees feeling stressed, anxious, or treated unfairly. Similarly, rushing team members toward a finish line out of impatience doesn’t allow space for innovation or the development of meaningful, high-quality work. Patient leaders can still push their team, but also construct a strategy that sets them up for success.
Top 5 Ways to Increase Patience
1. Find your passion.
Consider passion as the north star in a leader’s life. As a captain guides the ship, an effective leader needs a point of reference for heading in the right direction. People who find their passion have a reason to be patient. As a business owner, you must ask yourself, “What do I believe in most or want to be accomplished so badly that I’d be willing to sacrifice parts of my life for it?”
Without knowing the answer to this question, there’s nothing to stave off impatience. Reconnecting to passion gives people a reason to persevere, endure difficulties with grace, and exhibit self-control. This heightened self-awareness produces leaders who have a purpose for being patient.
2. Recognize the negative effects of impatience.
Whether it’s not seeing goals through, missing enormous opportunities, or negatively impacting others, impatience comes at a high cost. In business, leaders can’t afford to be impatient.
To increase your capacity for patience, begin recognizing the patterns of how impatience affects yourself and others. Think back on situations that could’ve turned out differently with more patience. How would the outcome change? Realizing the price of not having patience is important because it helps you recognize your potential losses. Additionally, this exercise can help leaders avoid the errors that have cost them in the past.
3. Assess triggers of impatience.
“Impatience is triggered when we have a goal and realize it’s going to cost us more than we thought to reach it,” says Dr. Jim Stone in an article for Psychology Today. When thinking about the negative effects of impatience, consider the most common triggering situations.
Self-awareness is a key component of emotional intelligence, one of the most important leadership qualities. Create a list and acknowledge the places requiring you to exercise more patience. Furthermore, develop a strategy for handling the moments when an impatient reaction or response surfaces.
4. Build up a mindfulness practice.
Business leaders who want to combat impatience for the benefit of their employees and customers can develop a mindfulness practice. The Mayo Clinic defines mindfulness as: “a type of meditation in which you focus on being intensely aware of what you’re sensing and feeling in the moment, without interpretation or judgment.”
There are a variety of mindfulness exercises including:
Body Scan Meditation
This relaxation and stress relief practice helps people focus on the present moment by lying down and connecting to themselves mentally and physically. Body scans provide time for rest and reset. Additionally, they are perfect for increasing patience because they calm the mind and allow the breathing room to work through current emotions.
Impatience automatically takes the mind to a negative, anxious state, which often leads to overreacting in unfavorable circumstances and situations. Focusing on your breath helps calm the nervous system. By concentrating on deep breathing, the mind signals the body to relax in the present moment. For learning how to become more mindful through breathwork, try Prāṇāyāma, a yoga practice focused on controlling the breath.
Lack of patience often correlates with speed. When we slow our pace, we can begin to savor life in the present moment. Mindfulness techniques revolve around taking time to live in the here and now.
One way to train the mind to stop living in the future is through various exercises that force a person to slow down. This includes taking five minutes to eat one almond or spending 15 minutes drinking a cup of tea or coffee. Another technique is lighting a candle and taking 10 minutes to sit and watch the flame. While they may seem silly, these practices can help leaders increase their tolerance for when things go awry or take longer than anticipated.
5. Act with empathy.
The victims of impatience are often other people. Because of this, empathy is one of the most important qualities leaders need when guiding and taking care of their team members. In essence, empathy is the ability to see from another person’s perspective and understand the way they feel. Being empathic can “resolve conflicts, build more productive teams, and improve our relationships with co-workers, clients, and customers,” writes the Mind Tools’ content team.
The great news about empathy is that it’s a quality a person can intentionally develop and increase. Spending time getting to know team members’ thoughts, concerns and ideas is one way of doing so. Finding areas of commonality, but actively listening to people’s varying viewpoints helps expand your worldview. Listening with empathy causes you to think twice before reacting to another person out of impatience.
Becoming a Patient Leader
Theologian John Wesley is often attributed as saying, “Light yourself on fire with passion and people will come from miles to watch you burn.” This is the definition of a patient leader. They ignite themselves with a purpose others can join. In doing so, they will likely endure short-term and long-term challenges, discomfort, and difficulties. Anyone in a leadership position knows this to be true from experience. Nevertheless, choosing to approach problems with patience helps keep the fire burning for the sake of achieving the greater good.
Passion attracts talent and customers to the flame. Patience keeps them with you as you light their torches and lead them toward achieving the company’s mission.
Patience requires practice, dedication to continued learning and the commitment to be the leader you know your people deserve.