Impatience; a blessing or a curse, and what you can do about it.

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In this 24/7/365 world we live in impatience makes a regular appearance. It may appear as a result of a report that is overdue, having to queue for morning coffee, someone cutting in on you in traffic or people running late for meetings. Whether these things are done intentionally or accidentally impatience is still the outcome.

Impatience has a dual meaning; the most common is being irritated with anything that causes delay, however it can also mean a restless desire for change.

From a leader’s perspective it can be a blessing if used selectively or curse if over used. Impatience has some similarities to anger in that it is a deliberate response to being threatened. Unlike anger which is in part a response to a deliberate threat to personal well-being or to the well-being of those around you, impatient people see all situations as threatening not to their well-being but to their achievement of goals.

Impatience is a learned response and often has its root cause in childhood. It may be the result of one single circumstance or it may be a combination of things such as:

  • Concerned with being left out, not being allowed to participate in or have input into important family events or decisions.
  • It may be that parts of the normal processes of growing up were lost because at a younger than expected age greater responsibility and accountability were expected, such as occurs with the loss of loved one.
  • Concern with the consequences of what will happen if there is not enough time.
  • Having to run to constantly tight schedules which mean always rushing and moving as quickly as possible from one thing to the next.

In a leader’s role the disadvantages of overusing impatience outweigh the advantages. Used very selectively it can be a powerful motivator when deadlines have to be met. When used all the time our experience is impatience produces “pace setter” leaders – don’t’ ask why, just follow me.  People reporting to these leaders and the leaders themselves report their impatience results in:

  • Cutting corners leading to loss of quality and rework.
  • Unwilling to listen, instead jump to conclusions or make assumptions.
  • Perceptions of favouritism as those who are seen to be hindering are sidelined.
  • Reacting aggressively to hold-ups, real or perceived.
  • People disengage because they tire of trying to maintain the pace and often leaders burnout because they can’t maintain the pace.

Here are some practical ways we have helped leaders apply to better manage impatience:

  • Note down the triggers for your impatience; insight won’t cure impatience, however understanding the root cause can bring perspective; a counsellor or therapist may be needed.
  • Take time to unpack large tasks in order to properly sequence and prioritise.
  • Don’t react; apply a considered response.
  • Practice actively listening, don’t just hear.
  • Remind yourself that impatience rarely gets people to move faster.
  • Focus on what you can control and influence.
  • Utilise mindfulness techniques.
  • Maintain perspective; ask yourself “What’s the worst thing that is going to happen if this isn’t completed by ….”

When we understand the source of our impatience we create choice. As leaders we can use it to selectively bring about change or speed things up, and by calming and controlling it we can find and analyse the available options and select the best course of action that delivers the required outcomes.


Viventé Australia enables leaders and managers to create the conditions that allow their people to do their best work every day thus creating a powerful advantage: the synergy between people, leadership, management, and culture, produces performance that allows your business to achieve its outcomes