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The Use of Tolerance in Effective Leadership

I always look forward to raising this topic with either my online or in-class graduate students. Regardless of the course I am instructing, tolerance and leadership has relevance. After all, we want our current graduate students to be able to run effective operations and make important decisions. To make this a reality these future leaders must enable their teams to be willing and active participants. Decisions with poor results should be expected to occur depending on the circumstances.

So why is the use of tolerance an important and effective way to manage? I will ask our readers to recall if they ever participated or were the recipient of criticism from their direct manager as a result of a mistake that was made. I would venture to say not all of you recall this as a pleasurable experience. I personally recall sitting in a managerial review with an upper manager that was displeased with how a project was proceeding. Poor decisions were made by the engineering team forcing the project to run behind schedule. The yelling and screaming that came from this manager embarrassed everyone in attendance. The team members were not only embarrassed but became fearful of facing the same fate someday in the future. This manager, by her actions, single handedly changed the team dynamic from one of collaboration to defensive posturing.

Conservative decision making took root and any type of risk was avoided at all costs. This manager’s intolerance to mistakes yielded a sub optimal project. Displaying tolerance for failure in decision making is an effective way for a leader to drive extraordinary long term results. One must realize that failure, due to poor decision making, is only temporary. If used correctly, tolerance for poor decision making will allow learning for future success. Intolerance, on the other hand, will drive behavior that is offensive in nature and will harm future decision making.

However, using tolerance when poor decisions are made provides an effective leader with a spring board for learning and growth of the team he/she manages. Concluding this setback is temporary in nature, driving for the root cause of the poor decision and deploying corrective actions to get back on track are the actions an effective leader pursues with their team. Using tolerance and avoiding personal unconstructive criticism is the correct path to follow. Using the poor decision as an opportunity for future growth of the team is where the leader should focus energy.

This does not mean tolerance and acceptance for poor decision making are synonymous with each other. Quite the opposite is true. A strong leader should never accept poor decision making. High performance results are achieved by doing the right things at the right time. Achieving excellence is the byproduct of learning what does not work!

Current and future leaders should include tolerance in their management tool box. As all other management tools it must be practiced to be perfected. As I share with my graduate students, you owe it to yourself and to your current or future teams, to use tolerance as an effective way to drive improved performance. Using poor decisions as an opportunity to learn and grow is important. The use of tolerance when managing is the catalyst to driving future success.

To learn additional ways to be an effective leader, visit us at or call us to speak with an admissions counselor at (866) 295-3104. Our online Master of Business Administration and online Master of Science in Management and Organizational Behavior are tailored to prepare today’s business professionals to be effective leaders in today’s complex business environment.

About the Author

Pete Papantos is an operations director at a Fortune 500 company. He is responsible for the global execution of their strategic plan and driving operational excellence using lean methods. In addition, Pete is a graduate instructor with emphasis in operations and strategic management — both in traditional and online settings.