Why Patience is One of the Most Important Qualities a Leader Can Have

thinkstockphotos-624713098The chasm between a leader and a great leader is a deep one. It is one that is often filled with qualities like clarity, decisiveness, courage, passion, and a healthy amount of humility given the circumstances.

But one of the major qualities that is essential to leadership that people don’t talk about nearly enough is patience. When patience is practiced wisely, it can have a dramatic effect on your entire organization from the top down.

The Ripple Effect of Patience

In general, patience is more important than just being willing to wait for results. Yes, all people are different and employees need to be given room to move at their own pace for the sake of quality. But, the true benefit of patience runs much deeper.

First and foremost, patience shows respect in a way that also encourages productivity at the same time. If you’re the type of leader who delegates responsibility but then spends hours each day telling people to “hurry up” or to “get things moving,” ultimately all you’re really doing is creating frustration or fear in an environment where you can afford neither.

Being willing to wait for someone to work at their own pace shows an employee that you value their overall contribution to the larger organization. You didn’t just choose any person for this job; you chose the right person for the right job. Sometimes, that takes a little more time than you’d like, but that is perfectly fine. Patience is also an important acknowledgment that every person progresses at a different pace. If you’re up in arms every time someone takes a little more time to complete a task, what you’re doing is communicating that they’re not as good as someone else when given the same responsibility.

Patience Also Says a Lot About You, Too

Being patient with others isn’t just about your employees – it also speaks volumes about you. When you’re constantly working from a place of “I needed this yesterday,” all you’re doing is artificially inflating the stakes of the business you’re trying to run. You’re not making considerate decisions; you’re making ones fueled by little more than raw emotion and a ticking clock.

Patience shows that you’re the type of leader willing to stop and let things breathe for a moment. It shows that you’re willing to listen and consider all variables before making a thoughtful judgment about what to do next. It shows that you’re not the type of person to make snap decisions that you’ll later regret and that your employees shouldn’t be willing to settle for that, either.

These are just a few of the many reasons why patience is one of the most important qualities a leader can have. It’s also important to remember that you need to be patient with yourself. Patience is a virtue, yes, but it’s also something of a discipline. You’ll need to acknowledge the importance of patience and the role it plays in your business so that you can grow into the type of leader who no longer has to make an effort to be patient with others. Instead, it will become an afterthought.

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Taking Over: Tips for Becoming a Team Leader for an Already Established Group

thinkstockphotos-485561865Building a team is an inherently personal proposition, regardless of the industry in which you’re operating. These are people that you’ve hand-selected based on their unique strengths to come together to form a complete whole. When everyone is firing on all cylinders, a well-designed team is more than just a tool – it’s a reflection of yourself, of the type of work you do, and of the quality of the product you’re about to deliver.

So what happens when you didn’t form the team, but you’re still being asked to lead them?

Things change in business all the time and at some point, you may be invited to take the reigns of a project that had already existed long before you got there – inheriting the project’s team at the same time. Jumping into a team as the newly deemed leader can be a difficult situation to find yourself in, but it doesn’t have to be provided you keep a few key things in mind.

Trust – The Most Important Element of All

When you take over as the team leader for an already established group, one thing will become clear: you probably wouldn’t have made the same decisions had you been there from the beginning. It’s a bit like a Hollywood feature film when one director takes over for another – a movie is still going to get made, but can that new director still put his or her own stamp on what is about to happen?

The answer is “yes,” provided you take advantage of your most valuable asset of all: the team itself. Remember, the people in that group were selected for a reason, and the most important thing you can do right now is to trust them to guide you just as they’re trusting you to guide them. Remember that they WERE there from the beginning. They have experience in this context that you do not, and their experience is incredibly valuable. Don’t come in barking orders, changing this or that just so that the project is more “yours” than anybody else’s. Listen to what they have to say. Talk to them about what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. Instead of changing them to fit your needs, do what you can to make yourself malleable to address theirs.

You’ve Been Tasked With Filling a Void, So Fill It

If you’re coming in to lead an already established group, the chances are high that what you’re being asked to do is fill a void. Why the previous team leader was replaced no longer matters – the people in front of you were prepared to follow that person, and now that person is gone. What you need to do is throw any pre-conceived strategies you may have had out the window and learn the score, so to speak. Find out what challenges were present under the previous leadership and learn what you can do to correct them. Find out how you can provide your personal value in a situation that already existed before you got there. Take the time to learn precisely what type of leader these people need and do whatever you have to do to become it. In this situation, you need to be willing to become a collaborator almost more than you would if you had built the team in the first place.

These are just a few of the ways that you can successfully become a team leader for an already established group. Make no mistake – it’s an awkward position to be in, but above all else, the quality of the work can’t suffer due to an unfortunate identity crisis. By trusting these people who have already come together and by being willing to become a real collaborator in every sense of the word, you’ll be able to make this team your own over time – all without tearing down what was old to build something new in the process.

Sharing the Challenge Means Sharing the Victory: The Two-Way Street of Team Leadership

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Many people work their entire lives to achieve a leadership role within an organization. They’ve put in their time, tirelessly working their way up through the ranks and then, it finally happens: they’re trusted enough to be given the responsibility of bringing a team together for the benefit of a business’s long-term goals. And yet, unfortunately, far too many people tend to veer off course with this almost immediately by assuming that respect is a given (which we’ve talked in detail about before), and by looking at “the team” as one thing and the “team leader” as something separate. They’re not separate, and they never were. The sooner this is understood, the sooner you’ll be generating the types of results you were after.

There IS an “I” in Team – It’s Just Silent

An old saying has told us for years that “there is no ‘I’ in ‘team'”, meaning that in order to become a successful, respected leader, you have to put aside your own needs and look at yourself as just one part of a larger whole. While this is certainly true, from the perspective of a leader there actually IS a pretty important “I” in team. It’s just that most people use it incorrectly.

As a leader, you don’t lead by delegating authority or even by simply demanding excellence from those around you. You lead by example. You always have (whether you realize it or not) and you always will. You set the tone for everything that happens. Think about it – if you like to joke around throughout the work day, your team members will probably joke around a bit, too. If you like to keep things a bit more on the serious side, the mood of your team members will reflect that.

This is a clear-cut example of the two-way street of team leadership, and it is one you NEED to know how to use to your advantage. Never, under any circumstances, should you ask something of your employees that you would be unwilling to do yourself. Don’t say to your new graphic designer, Timothy, “Hey, we’re a bit behind on this upcoming project and I need you to come in on the weekend.” Instead, say, “Hey, so that we can get caught up, I’m going to be coming in on the weekend and I would really appreciate it if you could find the time to as well.” This goes above and beyond just showing your team members that they’re appreciated. It lets them know that you’re not JUST the team leader, you’re a part of the team as well. Of course, you might not always be able to come in on the weekend yourself, but showing your willingness is more of the idea here.

Pay attention to the way this idea plays out in visual cues, as well. If you want your employees to dress more professionally in the office, don’t call them together and reprimand them for their current appearance while you’re wearing beach shorts and flip-flops. Doing so will end in slowly chipping away at that high-functioning team you worked so hard to build in the first place. If you show up every day at the office dressed in a suit and tie, just watch how your employees will rise to meet your dress code.

A Team Shares EVERYTHING

This idea also plays out in how you celebrate your accomplishments or lack thereof. By making yourself a more ingrained part of the team and sharing the challenges, it means that you truly get to share in the victories as well. Remember – you don’t work in a vacuum. When a project finishes successfully, people may want to give you the credit because “you told the right people to do the right things.” You didn’t. Never forget that you’re just one small part of a larger whole. If you were willing to share the challenges, you have to share the victories as well – this means that any success is the TEAM’S success, not yours.

In the end, the phrase “team leader” is actually something of a misnomer. People tend to think of it as immediately positive – you’re in a position of authority and that is something to be celebrated. While this may be true, it’s also something that can be far too easily abused – even unintentionally – if you’re not careful. If a chain (or team) is only as strong as its weakest link, you need to understand that the weakest link will ALWAYS be the team leader by default. Your number one priority is making sure that the entire team is moving forward through the way you treat your team members, the way you behave, and the way you show them that you’re all in this together.

Change Your Leadership Style to Match Your Company’s Vision

thinkstockphotos-499208962Nobody likes being told what to do. It rarely matters who is doing the telling, you just feel that tension rise in your neck and a little rush of adrenaline as your inner 2-year old shouts, “You’re not the boss of me!” Then, that thought that you’re an actual adult enters your mind and you usually do what you’re told, because inevitably, the person telling you what to do is technically the boss of you in some fashion.

When it comes to getting things done in business, someone has to be told what to do, otherwise, nobody would know what to do, right? While this statement has some truth to it, there are effective ways that you can direct people without channeling your inner dictator and incurring the seething wrath of your employees.

Successful leadership styles are not the same as they were twenty years ago. Employees no longer respond favorably to top-down directives. They want a more collaborative environment where their ideas are valued. They want to feel as though they have some sort of stake in the game. If you see your company as the next Google or Zappos and want to attract and retain the talent to match, you may already have that inkling that autocratic and directive leadership styles just will not do.

Today’s employees are more responsive to a democratic and more participative leadership style, where creative thinking and individual ownership of projects is emphasized. With this type of leadership style, it is not the leader or boss who is central to the decision-making process, rather, it’s the group. Think podium dictatorship versus collaborative round-table.

For an example of this, imagine your company designs and builds laptops:

Podium Dictator calls a staff meeting and tells everyone that this year they want the new model to be something no one has ever seen before. Something game-changing. That is why this year you are going to build triangular-shaped, green laptops. Collective eye-rolling ensues and everyone files back to their desks like prisoners in a chain gang. These employees will either polish up their resumes or begin the soul-sucking task of putting a bad idea into production.

On the other side of the coin, the round-table leader asks for a meeting and describes the grand vision – the design of a game-changing laptop. Regardless of how badly this leader wants a triangular-shaped, green laptop, this leader understands that they have a creative and powerful team of designers who know what game-changing really means. This leader asks for ideas. The designers around the round table feel empowered and their creative juices start to flow. Concepts are thrown up on a white board. Truly revolutionary ideas begin to form. There may even be some green involved…

You can see the difference pretty clearly, right? The collaborative leader has just empowered the group to create while the dictator has told the group what to do. Who will have the happier employees and the better product?

This new generation of leaders is able to hire talent that fits well within this new working model. They are able to clearly articulate their vision, manage expectations, and keep the project on track within that vision. They also have the self-control to allow the process to happen with the team that they’ve built. Micromanagers need not apply. When employees feel they have more control over their working environment and schedule (within the confines of the greater vision, of course), they truly want to make the company’s vision a reality.

Rule-Breaker or Not: Which Type of Leader are You?

thinkstockphotos-90205228“Following all the rules leaves a completed checklist. Following your heart achieves a completed you.” This quote by author Ray A. Davis may be a bit of an oversimplification, but it carries some significance, too. Some people are attracted to breaking rules and live their lives accordingly. They are typically acknowledged as either highly successful people or scoundrels. But in any case, they are people who choose their own paths instead of following the well-beaten trails of life. Many times they are revered as leaders. However, not everyone is cut out for rule breaking.

This may be the key difference between two very different types of leaders. One is devoted to organizing procedures and processes and directing operations and the systems that make them functional. The other is primarily engaged in creativity and the positive influence of others. As such, these two types are differentiated as managers and visionaries. Some individuals are fortunate enough to have both of these capacities, but most of us, if we are leadership material at all, fall into one of these two categories more so than the other, and that is not a bad thing. The world needs both types of leadership.

Perhaps the most important difference between these two is that one of them is routinely devoted to following the rules, or at least helping to make and institute those rules. The other is largely committed to finding ways to circumvent the same rules, exploring new ground instead of restricting one’s latitude to a structured set of limitations. One follows the rules; the other seeks to break them.

Looking at these two individuals we can see some very clearly defined differences. The one who seems born to be a manager is focused on technical aspects and structural adhesion. She is committed to smoothness in operation and well-practiced efficiency. Everyone usually acknowledges that she is quite good at what she does.

The other is visionary in his approach to problem solving, so his solutions are not always popular. He is, instead, a bit of a maverick. But his ideas can be so very convincing sometimes, usually due to his emotional involvement and vision. In a word, he is passionate, and his passion is contagious. He is an idea factory.

Successful entrepreneur and co-founder of Twitter Jack Dorsey said, “Everyone has an idea. But it’s really about executing the idea and attracting other people to help you work on the idea.” The idea for Twitter was amazingly simple. It was also untried. The “idea people” attracted some management types to make it happen…and the rest is history.

Successful organizations usually require both types of leadership, the idea generators and the systems people who build and pattern the formula. Successful World War II general and U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower said, “Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.” That, in a nutshell, is the path of the idea creator, the entrepreneurial genius, the visionary leader who starts the engine and motivates it to keep running.

The running of the engine requires the attention of those most capable of coaxing from it the power that is needed. The engine must be tuned to perfection. Systems experts keep it running and running in the right direction. Without them, the visionary’s idea could easily die on the vine.

True leadership may begin with a breaking of the rules, but it can only truly succeed by virtue of learning one’s real limitations and finding help in those areas of relative weakness. Break the rules to get started, but then find help covering your weaknesses from another kind of leader, and your chance of success is increased.