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Published on March 29, 2021

Reactive Vs Proactive: How To Be Proactive And Not Reactive

Reactive Vs Proactive: How To Be Proactive And Not Reactive

For us to know how to be proactive and not reactive, we first need to know what these terms mean. When we are reactive to problems, we react to previous events instead of attempting to anticipate future ones. When we decide to be proactive, we choose to act on a situation before this situation becomes a crisis.[1] Managers must be “strategically proactive,” as I like to say, so they can do their regular day-to-day work and still have time to spend on improvement efforts.

How exactly can you become more proactive and not reactive to become a better, more thoughtful innovative leader? The good news is that there are several ways for you to develop proactive leadership.

In this article, you will learn why you should think long-term, seek to understand others, develop organization skills, aim for 80/20, be open to ideas, and have a calm demeanor to set you apart as a leader and are excellent ways to show proactiveness to your team.[2][3]

Why Should You Be Proactive and Not Reactive?

Before I go into more detail about proactiveness, I would like to say that any person can be a better leader by being more proactive.[4] It is difficult to go wrong when pre-planning, developing problem-solving and listening skills, and keeping in touch with your team becomes a habit for you. Proactive continuous leadership improvement is necessary, expected, and beneficial to us all.

Dwight Eisenhower once said,

“In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”

A condition for planning is being proactive.

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In simple terms, great leaders are proactive. Mediocre ones only react. Instead of waiting for events to occur and having to handle a crisis unprepared, why not engage in strategic planning from the beginning with the intent to anticipate problems and come up with solutions?

Being a proactive leader must be your only choice in leadership if your ambitions are to advance your career forward in business.

6 Strategic Ways to Be More Proactive and Not Reactive

To be a more proactive leader, you need to engage in pre-plaining and attempt to anticipate events. Try the following activities, adapt them to your area of practice, and test and see if they enhance your position as a leader.

The following are excellent exercises to make you into a more proactive leader and not reactive.

1. Think Long-Term

You must first understand that short-term thinking is antagonistic to the idea of proactive leadership because today’s short-term goals should, at one point, have already been yesterday’s long-term goals. Reactive leaders often fail to see the big picture, which is one of the core elements of proactive leadership.

Successful leaders understand the value of long-term thinking and avoid the baits of short-term returns. Ingvar Kamprad, Swedish billionaire and founder of IKEA, once said,[5]

“I decided that the stock market was not an option for IKEA. I knew that only a long-term perspective could secure our growth plans, and I didn’t want IKEA to become dependent on financial institutions.”

Have you been engaging in long-term thinking lately? I hope so. Long-term thinking has helped IKEA to be a corporate giant. It can help you be a giant leader! Unless an immediate emergency arrives, strive to think long-term to become a proactive instead of a reactive leader.

2. Seek to Understand Others

To be a proactive leader, you must seek to understand others. Remember, “Leadership is influence,” as Maxwell eloquently said.[6] By seeking to understand the members of your team—their likes, challenges, aspirations, and frustrations—you will gain important insights on how to influence them appropriately. Without having the capacity to understand others, it is impossible to lead because leadership is applied in a group activity.

Be compassionate, loyal, and full of integrity because these attributes will help you show your team that you are committed to understanding them. Remember that one of your main tasks as a proactive leader is to be trustworthy. Seek to understand others! It will help you build trust with your team.

As a Department Chair of a Historically Black College and University (HBCU) without being an African-American, I rely on first understanding others before I even attempt to propose a course of action. Understanding is key in the work that I do. I need the influence to advance the unit forward. My vision to understand my team becomes a strategy for having a buy-out later on in my long-term strategy.

3. Develop Organizational Skills

Proactive leaders don’t have time to spend reacting to the environment since time is of the essence for them. Therefore, wasting time isn’t an option for them.

Don’t waste your time, develop organizational skills, aim high and think long-term. In a previous article, I stated that “aiming high is almost always synonymous with aiming long-term.” Let’s say it one more time: “Aiming high long term can’t be accomplished without organizational skills because proactive organized leaders like you and me often check on their long-term goals and daily needs.”

Make sure to have your files organized, have an agenda with deadlines, manage your appointments efficiently, learn to delegate tasks, and reasonably engage in decision-making. You will need these organizational attributes if you want to be a proactive leader.

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4. Aim for 80/20

Understanding Eisenhower’s Box, former President Eisenhower’s productivity tool, can be of great help for you to better understand the 80/20 rule.[7] He once said,

“I have two kinds of problems, the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.”

Clearly, Eisenhower believed that urgent and important were not the same thing. Well stated! Proactive leaders understand that although team improvement is important (20% of the time), the focus should be on your regular work (80% of the time) because we often do our best work not on urgent but on important tasks.

Leaders who have more time to think and plan will execute tasks more effectively. Aim for 80×20, period.

5. Be Open to Ideas

I was once told by a close friend that people are living encyclopedias. This thought made me realize that everyone has something interesting to share. Ed Krok believes that as well:[8]

“Our employees are often our best source of information.”

I happen to agree with him wholeheartedly on this assertion. A proactive leader leverages the information shared by his employees. I most certainly do, I must add.

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As the old saying goes, “Two heads are better than one.”

In his book, Powers of Two: Finding the Essence of Innovation in Creative Pairs, Joshua Wolf Shenk writes about how open to ideas John Lennon and Paul McCartney were to one another. One would compose and write something and the other would complement what was written and vice-versa. Clearly, these geniuses of music understand the power of being open to ideas. Proactive leaders practice exactly that to strategically plan future events that are to come.

6. Have a Calm Demeanor

Proactive leaders don’t scream at others because they understand the value of not making emotional decisions. They prefer to make objective decisions planned ahead of time using elements of strategic thinking. As Miki Markovich says,[9]

“Proactive leaders are compassionate, loyal, integrity-filled, straightforward, calm, direct, fair, polite, hopeful and thoughtful.”

A reactive leader reacts to immediate stimuli and may have the habit of managing themselves poorly, making screaming behavior a predictable event. Don’t be like them. Dare to be different and focus on inspiring others by being calm and controlled. Your team will appreciate this gesture and your influence will increase.

Final Thoughts

It pays off to be a proactive leader versus being a reactive one. Reactive leaders think short-term and rarely apply their 80×20 rule—that is a mistake and is rooted in small thinking.

Big is good. Go big or go bigger! In this article, I presented six ways for you to be more proactive as a leader. Take advantage of them. You won’t be disappointed, believe me.

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Featured photo credit: Mimi Thian via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Dr. Luis C. Almeida

Dr. Almeida is a college professor and department chair who has taught over a thousand students with questions relating to technology and leadership.

3 Tips for Reprogramming the Subconscious Mind to Reach Goals Reactive Vs Proactive: How To Be Proactive And Not Reactive 6 Strategic Ways to Aim High and Achieve Your Goals What Leaders Can Learn from Amazon’s 14 Leadership Principles 6 Distinct Characteristics of an Authentic Leadership

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

17 Traits That Make a Successful Person Stand out from the Crowd

17 Traits That Make a Successful Person Stand out from the Crowd

If you are like most people, you probably have big goals and dreams that you would like to succeed in — you want to be the top in your career, live a healthy lifestyle, or flourish in your relationships.

Everyone dreams of a positive future, but most people don’t realize the secret to a truly successful life:

You determine your future in the way you spend your everyday moments. If you want to be a successful person, you must consistently develop good daily habits. As Aristotle pointed out:

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit”.

Building positive daily habits is a huge challenge, but can you imagine the amazing things you could accomplish with just a little commitment and determination?

Creating lasting, healthy habits is the real key difference between people who are successful in life and those who are unsuccessful.

You might be wondering which specific habits make the biggest difference. Not to worry, I’ve compiled a comparison list to help you get a jump start on a successful future.

1. Successful people embrace change. Unsuccessful people fear change.

Change is a constant for all of humanity, and it is important that you develop a positive relationship with it.

When unexpected or unwelcome changes arise, ask yourself how you can embrace it instead of running away. A few practical ways to reverse a change-fearing mindset include:

  • Take a moment to recognize and address any fears associated with the upcoming change.
  • Communicate with a person you trust about your negative feelings toward change.
  • Practice positive thinking, which you can read about in the next section.

2. Successful people exude joy. Unsuccessful people think, say and do negative things.

A joyful, positive disposition can seem like a distant reality in today’s cynical world, but it may be easier to achieve than you think. All you have to do is notice the good things around you and practice being thankful.

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Mindfulness and gratitude are not just buzz words – choosing a positive attitude can honestly change your life. Many studies have found that thankfulness leads to greater happiness. Furthermore, research indicates that gratitude may even have a lasting positive impact on the brain and overall mental health.[1]

3. Successful people forgive others. Unsuccessful people hold grudges.

As a human being, you have likely been offended or hurt by others plenty of times. Don’t give in to the temptation to hold a grudge. Let it go.

Note that forgiving someone does not equate to giving up your boundaries (which are very important) or even admitting that the offending party is right. You should choose to let go for your own peace of mind.

4. Successful people track progress. Unsuccessful people just criticize.

Some kinds of criticism, such as constructive criticism, are good for personal and professional development. The kind of criticism I’m talking about is the pessimistic, nagging, unhelpful variety. This is the kind of criticism in play when you are unfairly harsh to yourself or others.

Toss unfounded criticisms aside and consider tracking your “wins” or your progresses, no matter how small. Take mental notes or keep a progress journal.

If you have a solid sense of what you have achieved, you will be less tempted to be hard on yourself.

5. Successful people share information, data and ideas. Unsuccessful people hoard.

If you have useful information or generate brilliant ideas on the regular, your first instinct may be to keep it all to yourself for personal gain and solo recognition.

Instead of hoarding bright ideas, share them with your team. Your talents will be on display for the team, and the team will be able to support you and make your ideas a reality.

6. Successful people are humble. Unsuccessful people talk more than they listen.

Humility is key. The ability to listen to other people, really listen and understand, is essential to success in both work and relationships — and to listen you have to be humble.

Everyone has experienced the frustration of being in a one-sided conversation. When someone approaches you with a question or concern, put your own world aside for just a moment and give them the kindness of your full attention.

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7. Successful people take risks. Unsuccessful people take the easy way out.

The next time your heart is racing and you want to walk away, consider embracing the risk. You never know what might happen if you take a chance.

Embracing risks looks like accepting the speaking engagement even though it seems a little scary. Success takes the courageous route, not the easy route.

8. Successful people learn, improve and read every day. Unsuccessful people stop learning.

Instead of binge-watching a show tonight, save an hour before bed to read a book and expand your mind.

Unsuccessful people are afraid to be flexible – they don’t challenge themselves to learn new things. Avoid this pitfall by exposing yourself to new thoughts and ideas every day.

9. Successful people handle problems well. Unsuccessful people act before they think.

The next time you run into a problem or even an emergency, try to work through your initial panic reaction with a few deep breaths.

Instead of acting rashly, think through your next actions as quickly but as logically as you can.

Learning to handle problems thoughtfully is an absolutely essential tool in the successful person’s toolbox (that’s you!).

10. Successful people accept responsibility for their failures. Unsuccessful people blame others.

Along with a previous tip about humility, this is one of the hardest things you’ll ever learn to do – but also the most rewarding. When you’ve failed, you must fight the urge to pass the blame. Successful people are able to fail honestly and gracefully.

And, hey, don’t feel bad about failing. Some of the most successful people in the world have failed too many times to count. It’s all a part of the process.

You can check out this article for more tips on how to fail well:

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How Failure Helps You To Succeed and Grow

11. Successful people work with passion and commitment. Unsuccessful people have a sense of entitlement.

A short and sweet lesson for you:

You should never expect to achieve the things you want without working hard.

Follow your passion and stay committed to pursuing it. Work hard and stick to your habits every day. You’ll earn your reward.

12. Successful people spend time with the right people. Unsuccessful people think they already know it all.

A lot of people miss out on useful relationships and information sharing because they think they can do it all alone.

Spend time with people who inspire you, spur you to be a better person, and remind you that you can’t go it alone.

13. Successful people make to-do lists and maintain proper life balance. Unsuccessful people waste their time.

Ah, time management. Unsuccessful people never master the art of organization and planning.

Here are a few tips for you when it comes to time management:

  • Make to-do lists. Seriously, this will help you. Make time to do it every morning, evening, or whenever you are able.
  • Keep track of your time. Are you happy with the way you are currently balancing things? What changes can you make?
  • Keep a calendar full of your long-term goals (see next tip).

14. Successful people write down goals and think long term about their burning desires. Unsuccessful people get distracted every day.

Why is it so important to keep a long-term goal calendar? Here’s the deal:

The things you are passionate about today need a backbone.

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Give your passionate ideas sustainability by writing down goals and staying on task instead of succumbing to distraction.

15. Successful people compliment others. Unsuccessful people try to bring others down to their level.

There is no greater confidence than saying “no” to sudden jealous or envious feelings and choosing to sincerely admire someone’s talents instead.

Unsuccessful people live in a world driven by competition, but successful people know that building people up is far more rewarding than bringing them down.

16. Successful people want others to succeed. Unsuccessful people secretly hope they fail.

In the same vein as the point above, this tip is all about good intentions.

Care for the people around you. Encourage them toward their successes. Hoping that others fail will not help you at all.

17. Successful people know their purpose and mission. Unsuccessful people don’t know what they want to be.

The last thing that differentiates successful people from unsuccessful people is one of the most important:

Keep your mission in mind.

Don’t be swayed to and fro by passing emotions and events. Know who you are and pursue your dreams wholeheartedly.

Final thoughts

Above all, stay confident. Truly believe that you can be and are successful. Strive to prove it in your day-to-day habits and activities!

What are you waiting for? Choose one of the habits above and get started today.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Berkeley University of California: How Gratitude Changes You and Your Brain

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