Cure Impatience and Irritability for Leaders

Impatience and irritability with others do so much damage… subtle yet insidious.

Leaders, regardless of their level in the hierarchy, have gotten to that position because they were considered able to manage others to greater achievement. Have you met, or worked with someone where someone has risen to the level of their own incompetence? They may be able to manage others, but are they equipped to manage themselves?

So often I hear the complaint that a leader wants others to be more responsible…more creative with offering solutions…be more accountable…anticipate problems…remember detailed instructions…be more like them! But the people they work with are not clones of the leader, and can’t read their mind, any expression of impatience and irritability infects their relationships and limits their effectiveness. This may include people they report to, colleagues at their level, as well as direct reports, and even clients and vendors!

I’ve heard clients describe their behavior as cross, stern, resentful, sarcastic, demeaning, belittling, angry, belligerent, etc…you get the idea. Do any of these ways of being suggest personal power, much less self-management? Not only that, you have now successfully cut off any flow of ideas, you’ve lost control of the situation, and can only regain it by some form of bullying. And you don’t know what the other person is thinking, and that is potentially damaging to your success.

Here’s the hard fact: you can’t change people. They are who they are, and they’re NOT you!

However, you can influence people, and the place to start is with you. There’s nowhere else you can be as effective as when you manage yourself, and train yourself to manage others.

The critical question to ask yourself is, “What’s the benefit I realize when I behave in this manner?” There’s always a benefit -it may not be a pretty or necessarily advantageous benefit, but there is a benefit. It usually has to do with protecting your reputation, your position, your ego or your image. Behaving in this way to others does solidify your reputation and position, but not in the ways you would like for your long-term success.

Here’s the quick antidote to impatience and irritability: STOP….BREATHE….REGROUP!

That is your one and only line of defense and it needs to be practiced constantly, consistently, in every situation! That deep breath allows you to respond rather than react, and in that moment you can design your response with mindfulness, to the situation at hand and the unique individual involved.

In that moment you get to choose the leadership quality you’d like to adopt. Is it patience? Equanimity? Understanding? Lighten up with humor? Might you act as coach, and ask questions, which promote others problem-solving abilities?

That’s the challenge: how do you find the patience and tolerance to cultivate the relationships in your life and business to be more responsible and contributing to the common good? You will simultaneously preserve, even enhance, your position and ability to influence others.

Here’s the definition of leadership that guides me and my work: Authentic self-expression creating value for self and others. This is what true leadership is about: getting others to see what’s possible for themselves and getting them to actively participate in contributing their part.

It must start with you. To create value and to manage others, you must create value for yourself, and there’s no better place to start than managing yourself.