Leadership with an impatient touch

Posted by Ann Deaton 1 Comments



1. lack of patience; intolerance of or irritability with anything that impedes or delays

2. restless desire for change and excitement

Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged

One of my business partners and I have recently been in a conversation about impatience---both its blessings and its corrosive, damaging aspects. And through our conversations, I've arrived at a critical distinction between two kinds of impatience, a distinction that's been helpful to me in understanding impatience and in considering whether it has any place in the practice of being a good leader. Two kinds of impatience, and I get to choose which (if either) I'd like to express in my daily work and relationships.

By now, perhaps you are already becoming a little impatient yourself as you read this, muttering "Out with it already, Ann! What are you talking about with these two kinds of impatience? Spill it, will you!" Ah yes, and that's one of the kinds of impatience I am talking about. Thank you for your timely demonstration.

And some of you, perhaps, are saying "Ah! I can't wait to learn. I know it's gonna be something good and valuable. What will it be, I wonder?" And that, I think, is the other kind of impatience.

You can sense the difference, I'm sure, between the two. And maybe, sensing that, you can see why I've found it so useful to have a distinction. These two impatient sisters are close kin but, oh so different in their voices, their movements, the impression they leave on those around them!

I've named the sisters now, and I am striving to get to know each of them more intimately. One, I call Lovely Impatience. Lovely Impatience is extraordinarily impatient; there is no denying that! Yet, she often has a sense of wonder embedded in her unwillingness to wait even one more second. She is ready to embrace, eager to see, and it's dreadfully hard for her to wait. So Lovely Impatience often pushes, pursues, and provokes---all in hopes of hurrying things up. And oddly enough, though she is provoking...people seem to feel loved and treasured when Lovely Impatience makes her appearance. She somehow makes others feel only that she is longing to share more fully in what we bring, only that she believes we have a great deal to offer. Lovely Impatience urges us to bring all we have, preferably now.

Lovely's sister is not nearly so pleasant to be around. I've named her Ugly Impatience, and she is as different as can be from Lovely. When Ugly Impatience shows up, people most definitely do NOT feel the love. Instead, others feel berated, blamed, and beaten down by her disgust with their slowness, the negative vibe that Ugly brings. Though Ugly too is impatient to see what others have to share, there is an ugly edge, and hence her name. In Ugly's presence, others begin to feel that it won't be any good after all, whatever they have to offer, that they've already fallen short in meeting Ugly's demands, that they will never be enough. Ugly’s Impatience makes those around her feel ugly too, sometimes so small and ugly that they are never courageous enough to share the nugget they might otherwise have offered.


Two sisters. Two facets of each of us when that mood of impatience comes knocking. One, an eager invitation to enter; the other a growling "Get in here already!" that frightens us away. You get to choose which one you bring.

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Small Ann Deaton I am a leadership coach, and Managing Partner in Bounce. I love to coach and facilitate with individuals and systems experiencing significant change and growth. The clients I work with, regardless of their age or position, are talented and creative individuals willing to look with fresh eyes at their challenges and opportunities, and to take action based on their discoveries. As a result, they find that they are capable of accomplishing far greater things than they ever imagined. What do you want to accomplish today? Who do you want to be?


Nicki P. said:

What a fun and playful read, Ann. And of course, packed full of your sage wisdom. I know Lovely and Ugly well and and I appreciate this reminder that we have choice around which sister we bring to the meeting or the dinner table or the soccer field. OK Lovely and I are headed out to walk the dog now. We may linger and sniff a bit longer this morning.

08/09/2012 at 08:10 am

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