Three Differences Between Moving Slowly and Being Patient

Be patient.

Move fast.

Leaders have likely encouraged others and been encouraged to do both. The two are often set up as being contradictory to one another, as if being patient means moving slowly. But being patient is not the same thing as moving slowly. Some leaders claim they are being patient when they are really just moving slowly. In the same way, some leaders claim they are moving fast when they are really just moving haphazardly. Moving fast and being deliberate don’t have to conflict with one another. Here are three differences between moving slowly and being patient:

1. Slow is passive; patience is active.

It takes active patience to form a strategy with a community of leaders. It takes active patience and grit to stick with a strategy and not continually shift directions. Slow, on the other hand, is paralyzing. When moving slowly, endless analysis is used to justify never actually making a decision. 

2. Slow is reactive; patience is proactive.

When leaders move slowly, they live in a reactionary posture. Instead of proactively leading, their days are filled with merely reacting. Thus, the teams they lead move slowly even though the days can be filled with reactively and chaotically putting out fires.

3. Slow is dragging your feet; patience is walking deliberately.

Sometimes leaders move slowly because they don’t know where they are going. A leader can move fast and still move with intentionality.

For years, hanging on the walls at Facebook was one of their cultural values: Move fast and break things. The value emphasized speed to the point that bugs and necessary fixes were tolerated. In recent years, the value has been changed to Move fast with stable infra. Speed is still valued, but as the company has grown and matured, so is having a stable infrastructure. The new value essentially says, “Let’s still be fast, but let’s also be very deliberate.”

There are, of course, times to slow down as leaders. Times to be still and evaluate. Times to prayerfully and deliberately plan. But being patient doesn’t always mean moving slowly.