Patience is the ability to endure difficult circumstances such as perseverance in the face of delay; tolerance of provocation without responding in annoyance/anger; or forbearance when under strain, especially when faced with longer-term difficulties. Patience is the level of endurance one can have before negativity.
Patience is not one of my virtues, or so I have been told, but the irony is I do play Patience when I need to kill time.
I thrive on action… activity… productivity… I like being busy, feeling purposeful and making the most of every minute. If you meet me/ have met, I think fast, I talk fast, I walk fast, I type fast. I am a ball of energy and adrenaline. Of course I can be patient when I need to be, but I like things turned around quickly, I am a pace setter.
This comes from 18 years of training, 14 of those years in school improvement, as a leader in schools that needed to rapidly improve. If there was no pace, no sense of urgency in our leadership, then the next cohort of Year 11s would be failed too.
I was head hunted for Senior DHT role at a MAT on the South Coast, when I was VP in London for Harris. At interview I was asked: “What would Harris do with a school that had been failing for 3 years?” I was baffled by this question. Eventually I answered: “But Harris wouldn’t let a school fail for 3 years. They would deploy all of their resources into that school, they would prioritise its need”. The interviewer looked shocked. I continued and added: “In all honesty, there is no excuse, and you could redeploy staff from London to come down here for secondments as I know it is hard to recruit”. I was offered the job, with an insulting package, so I declined, but that conversation stays with me.
Yes, Patience is a virtue, but it is not an excuse. We need to be patient with some things, but we also need to prioritise others. If we accept slow rates of change, snail-like paces in improvement, poor prioritisation, that is not us exercising patience, that is us being reckless.
Leaving a role in a school where time was frenetic, every minute mattered, and there was a constant sense of urgency meant I had to learn a new way of working. University life has a different pace. Systems were not in place, processes were slow, I was further down the hierarchy so people did not jump to attention on a request. In my experience nothing was urgent.
My patience was tried, repeatedly. Waiting weeks, months, for meetings, replies and decisions meant that the rate of productivity, the pace of impact, was slow. Painfully slow. Academics work flow was stifled by the power games that were at play, where line managers would sit on things longer than necessary to exercise their control.
Swinging my lens to the current situation, my patience is being tested, once again. I have become patient about the lifting of lockdown, I am patient about the outcome of the vaccine trials, for me patience comes from clarity of understanding. When it is clear why it is vital to be patient, we can commit to accepting a slower pace. Yet, I am feeling restless, I am increasingly frustrated and have a rising sense of impatience in my body and in my mind – I am impatient for our country’s leadership to lead.
My default setting is that I am a decisive, assertive lead, I have conviction in my beliefs, I may be judged for being impulsive on the surface, but those who know me and who have worked closely with me know that I am reflective and strategic. I am a planner but I am also a communicator.
I am struggling to exercise patience when communications and decision-making are so ambiguous. Clarity over confusion, order over chaos, proactive steps over reactive measures, are what is needed now, not in a few months time. Surely it would be foolish to be patient right now when lives are at risk and our country is fit to implode?
I keep reflecting on our collective agency and the need for us to take control. Our country leaders are devolving accountability and distributing responsibility to our public service leaders, so the power of making timely decisions and controlling the pace of change now rests in the hands of peers who I trust and respect. The act of balancing the decisions and actions that we need to be patient with versus what we need to be proactive with is in their hands.
Patience is no longer a passive construct, but an active one.
We are patiently enduring difficult circumstances, we are persevering in the face of delay, we are tolerating provocation but we are allowed to get annoyed and angry! We are individually and collectively under strain and facing longer-term difficulties, but how much more can and should we endure before we become negative? I am a positive, optimist person, but my patience is running out.