The Self-Awareness Guy

Proactive vs. Reactive Leadership Thinking

Did you know you can lead without being in emergency mode all the time?  I specialize in training leaders and I often hear them talk about how they run from one crisis to another and never seem to catch up on things.  While there is nothing horribly wrong with this approach, it tends to stress people out and wear them down rather quickly.  In spite of the negative consequences of leading chaotically, millions of people spend their entire careers reacting to events rather than trying to foresee them.

There is an approach that helps leaders get out of triage mode and move toward balance.  It takes a shift in mindset but the rewards are that they get to relax more and avoid many emergencies.  It’s called planning.  Try the following tips to help you develop fewer ulcers.

  • Make a list of possible emergencies that could happen.  This will help you start visualizing all the things that used to take you by surprise.
  • For each item on the list, develop a series of actions you can take.  This helps you plan what you’re going to do instead of reacting.
  • Clear your head and tell yourself you will not react to emergencies.
  • Tell your employees that you will only allow emergencies to be dealt with at a certain time during the day, say, 1-3 PM.  This will broadcast to your employees that you are non longer defining every event as an emergency.  It sets a new tone.
  • Plan each of your days in advance and stick to the plan.
  • Do not deviate from the plan unless there is a dire, life-threatening event.  The reason for this is that you are forcing yourself to get out of crisis mode and lay back a bit.
  • You are not required to hover over everyone and be part of everything that happens.  I encourage you to become a better leader by trusting that your employees are doing their job.  Make yourself available by appointment if they need some education or training or delegate that task to someone else.
  • Take a lunch and leave the facility.
  • Breathe deeply and sigh with relief because you’re not running from one crisis to another.

Moving from reacting to behaving proactively requires that you let go of the notion that you are only valuable if you’re in problem-solving, crisis mode at all times.  Try the ideas we’ve mentioned above for at least a month and you will enjoy the benefits of being more proactive.  What advice do you have for leaders who want to be more proactive?



0 thoughts on “Proactive vs. Reactive Leadership Thinking

  1. Qiana

    Guy-Once again, I love your advice!!! Funny I should see the post, b/c in my current company we are pushing for empowerment, changing the culture, and most importantly, trusting that staff will handle situations. We are pushing for less line management, and more individual responsibility. Feeling the freedom, and knowing that you are trusted to make an educated decision is the push.I also agree, sometimes we allow every little thing to become an emergency. Having a set time to deal with these situations is a great way to show employees that not every incident is an emergency, nor will it be dealt with like an emergency!I am a firm believer in taking a break, and leaving the job! We actually push for staff to take both of their breaks! We have just purchased a WalkFit station which we are also promoting as a release from the day-to-day work stress.

    1. Guy Farmer

      Thanks Qiana. It is pretty amazing what can happen when we take a long-term view of things and work on building a strong foundation first. Keep up the great work, Guy.