I have noticed a tendency in some otherwise great healthcare leaders throughout my career to fall short of the influence they might have had by failing to, as I see it, balance passion and patience. Too much of one, or too little of the other, makes a lopsided leader whose impact can suddenly derail. Allow me to elaborate on this a bit, and try to offer some advice from my own experience.
With respect to passion, we expect our leaders to be driven, energetic, and highly motivated individuals who get things done. Such people bring an attractive enthusiasm to the job, and are often extremely effective at lifting organizations to new levels of service and operational success. They ooze passion. They get results. That’s why we hire them, and that’s what they do.
But that same passionate person, if not sufficiently equipped with enough patience, can find themselves quickly frustrated when others around them do not move at the same speed. The fact is that some great organizations simply do not pivot very quickly. That isn’t always a bad thing. A startup tech company delivering the newest gadget to the market may need to spin on a dime. But a large health system with layers of safety, a reputation for evidence-based decisions, and highly complex workflows shouldn’t be changing direction every other day. Yes, big and successful hospitals need to change too. And gigantic passion will be needed to do this. But unhinged from patience, and this passionate leader will quickly fizzle out and move on.
The opposite, from what I have seen, is also true. A woman or man who is all patience, with no passion, will steer the unwavering ship steady and straight, often for years and years. But nothing seems to improve. There’s lots of work, but little progress. It’s all talk, and no action. This isn’t good. Times change, and organizations need to adapt. But she who is all patience and no passion is willing to wait for the right time, wait until the opportunity is better, and all the while they are losing their best and brightest staff who want to practice closer to the cutting edge of their industry. That’s patience without enough passion.
So…are you equally balanced with passion and patience? Maybe a few questions will help you decide and correct course if needed.
Do you run quickly with new ideas, frequently skipping the painstaking process of seeking the input and collaboration of others? If so, maybe your passion needs more patience.
Are you contemplating quitting your current position because those around you aren’t changing or willing to change at the speed that you think is needed? If so, maybe your passion needs more patience.
Do you feel threatened or uneasy about every new idea that is brought to your attention, either quickly shooting it down or endlessly kicking the can down the road? If so, maybe your patience needs more passion.
Do you have long lists of started but unfinished projects that began with great enthusiasm, but quickly cooled and got put on the back burner where they sit today as you patiently wait for the right time to start them again? If so, maybe your patience needs more passion?
As I look back over my own career, I can think of individuals (including, at times, myself!) that would fall into all the above categories. Passion and patience must be balanced. There is a ditch, as they say, on both sides of the road. So ask yourself the hard questions and think about what you might need to do next week to change course and rebalance if needed.