The impatiently patient leader

Steve Ballmer, Microsoft’s CEO, was in Charlotte last Friday. He made some exciting predictions about the future of technology, and then he said something about leadership, something that reinforces a point I’ve been reflecting on lately (the more things change, the more leaders need to be experts in things that don’t change):

From the Charlotte Observer:

[Ballmer] said “the manager must be urgent but patient“, which he acknowledged as conflicting on its face.

You have to move with urgency and you have to be impatient about outcomes, but you have to be committed and patient for the long term,” he said. “Be quick but don’t rush.”

For as long as there have been leaders, there has been a drive for change. For as long as there has been change, there have been resistors (aka people resistant to change). A tendency, especially for young leaders, is to get impatient with the pace of change and “check-out” on the project/people. This is the point that Ballmer is speaking to – don’t lose your sense of urgency/impatience! Don’t walk away when the change you’re leading isn’t happening quick enough! Hang in there long enough to see the vision become reality.

Be clear about the vision. Lead with a sense of urgency. Stay in the game until the goal is achieved!

The other side of this “stay in the game” discussion comes from Seth Godin. In his book, The Dip, he says that successful people quit all the time… they just quit the right things! This book was particularly helpful for me (along with some other great input) in making the decision to conclude our church planting effort in Cincinnati.

A few questions to ask when you’re determining next-steps:

  • Is God done with me here? Am I stilled “called” to this initiative?
  • Are there some difficult conversations I need to have that will speed up the pace of change? Sometimes change goes slow or not at all because of the leader’s hesitation to address people issues. Here’s a formula that’s worked for me: check your heart; review the facts; swallow hard; go have the conversation.
  • Do the people I’m leading know that I care about them?

The decision to stick it out or to pick up your stick and walk is the most critical one a leader can make. Visions live and die on this decision. Lives are changed or not changed based on this decision. Should I stay or should I go now? That’s THE question for every leader. How are you going to answer it?

(you can read the entire Ballmer article here)

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