Lead with Constructive Impatience

Posted by on Nov 10, 2018

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We live in an age of acceleration.  This puts pressure on all of us to step up, to raise the bar on ourselves and our institutions.  In this rapidly changing world, everyone is challenged to expand their minds, and organizations are pressured to improve their performance.  Complacency and chaos are the enemies of progress and growth. Leading with constructive impatience becomes a way to step up to your highest potential.


If you want others to step up, you had better start with yourself.  This is at the heart of constructive impatience.  It’s the voice inside your head that challenges the status quo.  It’s your courage to take risks, to travel into the unknown, to desire something better. It’s the part of a leader that feels responsible to lead people into the future.  Whether you are an executive, coach, or parent, it’s about challenging others to be bigger and better tomorrow than they are today.

Conscious people understand that any change must start with them.  By becoming more conscious, we learn to be our own personal agents of change. Only then can we challenge others to step up.

Some of us tend to be constructive by nature, building psychologically safe environments for ourselves. Others are naturally impatient, challenging our limits, pushing ourselves to expand capabilities beyond what we imagined.  Chances are that you lean toward one side or the other of this paradox, especially when under pressure or stress.  But the paradox, constructive impatience, has two parts which are inextricably bound together to create positive energy and results. Focusing too much on being constructive can spawn complacency; too much impatience can breed unnecessary errors. Where do you stand on this continuum?

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When leading others, being constructive is at the top of the list.  This is all about creating a psychologically safe environment built on trust and respect.  In this compassionate approach to leadership, people feel good about themselves and find meaning in their work.  Feeling valued and appreciated, they stretch beyond their current image of themselves and become more agile and willing to change.  They are also better team players and more willing to challenge themselves and others to higher levels of performance.

What does being constructive look like?

  • Focusing on the best in people
  • Developing a positive employee experience
  • Pushing decisions as far down as possible
  • Helping people find meaning in their work
  • Turning mistakes into lessons
  • Sharing yourself authentically


If you are a naturally impatient person, then setting bold goals, challenging limits, and pushing yourself to do bigger and better things is built into your psychological makeup. When you lead others, you naturally tap into their inborn desire to win, push people out of their comfort zones, and look for opportunities to raise performance.

But here’s the warning: impatience can be toxic.  Push too hard and you become a bully.  Becoming overly aggressive will alienate others. Impulsivity and reckless behavior result in a loss of trust in you.  If you are careless with your impatience, you take the risk of becoming a toxic leader. Being conscious and aware of others will prevent these mishaps and the damages that go with them.


Constructive impatient leaders challenge people to perform in a safe environment.  They know when to push hard and when to just let things happen. They balance compassion with a drive for results. They understand that people do their best work when they are respected and stretched.

How constructive and impatient are you?  Do you stretch people and embrace people?  Are you inclined to change things and stay the course if it’s working? Are you able to move fast and go slow? Learning to be both constructive and impatient will enable you to stretch people without disempowering or overwhelming them.  It will ignite others to outperform themselves and it will give you and your organization the energy and confidence needed to move forward with confidence in an uncertain world.


  • Always look for opportunities to improve
  • Set sky-high goals with incremental touchpoints
  • Push people to do better than they imagine possible
  • Live in the future and the present simultaneously
  • Tie your success to the success of others
  • Give people what they need to succeed

Lead with Constructive Impatience is a strategy in the Step Up practice in our book CONSCIOUS: The Power of Awareness in Business and Life. The other practices are Go Deep, Think Big, and Get Real.


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