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How A Proactive Management Style Can Influence a Workplace

Written by Jim Burgoon
Founder of The Everyday Leader
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Have you ever been unable to find a manager to assist you when shopping? Or have you ever experienced poor customer service while purchasing food at a fast food chain?

Whether in business, management, or leadership, problems often arise as they are part of life. While it’s easier to focus or blame everything on problems, this is also not a sustainable solution, especially if you’re leading a team. Part of a proactive management style is finding solutions.

Therefore, how can we apply proactive management in workplace leadership? Even though there are several different management styles, this article’s primary focus is on proactive management and how it influences the workplace.

Proactive Management Style Is Incredibly Important

As a manager, constantly hearing about other people’s problems comes with the role. One of the most challenging issues with these conversations is the fatigue that it causes.

Being a manager, you have a series of tasks to complete. Achieving each item on your to-do list requires a certain amount of time and energy. Each conversation that isn’t focused on completing the task is a conversation that will derail you from the goal. An old saying goes,

“If you entertain people’s problems, they will continually give them to you.”

At this point, your management style will be the most significant factor in how you influence the workplace. The conversations you have, how you manage these conversations, and how you interact with the staff are all relative to the type of management style you use.


In essence, the effectiveness and success of the team are based on the style you decide to manage the workplace. One cannot stress the importance of this enough. In leadership, we know that everything rises and falls on the leader. This must be emphasized because your workplace’s culture depends on the leader.

If the manager is proactive, the culture will flourish. However, if the manager is reactive, the culture will be filled with stagnation and low morale.

That is why you, as the manager, have to decide whether or not you want to be a proactive manager or a manager who only reacts when there are problems.

Proactive Management Vs. Reactive Management

It is essential to make a note of reactive management and how it affects the workplace as well.

Both management styles are active styles of management. Yet, when we take a deeper look at the different types, we can see that one of these styles leads to growth and positive outcomes while the other is stressful and stagnant. Becoming self-aware of where you are and need to be is the first step to either increasing the positive workplace culture or completely changing it to be proactive.[1]


Signs Of Reactive Management

  • Reactive management style is assumption-based over evidence-based.[2]
  • Changes are swift and unplanned.
  • There are no processes or systems in place.
  • Expectations are in the manager’s head, and people are expected to “know them.”
  • Lack of communication or poor communication.
  • Any action taken is reactive and not proactive.
  • The entire system is based on a person, and everything falls apart if that person is absent.
  • Management makes decisions based on short-term feelings and not long-term vision.
  • The team does what’s easiest or quickest, not what’s best.
  • When things go wrong, no one takes responsibility.

Signs of Proactive Management

  • The management style is evidence-based and process-oriented.
  • There are systems in place, and the team knows and uses them.
  • Changes are based on discussion and vision planning.
  • Communication is a core value and is utilized often.
  • The manager is solution oriented.
  • The management team is focused on what is best over what is fastest – quality first.
  • When things go wrong, management takes responsibility and then takes steps to ensure that it won’t happen again.
  • Management leads through vision and not feeling.
  • Management develops training programs based on the most significant challenges that “could” happen.
  • Management allows the team to bring problems to them but focuses on finding solutions with the team member.

Proactive Management and Workplace Influence

After reading the above lists, ask yourself where you fall. Do you think that you are more proactive or reactive? If you believe yourself to be a proactive manager, what can you do to increase your ability to manage more proactively? If you think of yourself as a reactive manager, what do you need to change to become more proactive?

Remember, the goal is to grow your ability to manage consistently in a proactive way. The greatest teams have thriving and healthy managers who devote themselves to developing their proactive management style.

When you reflect on the differences, you can see how the types of management styles influence the workplace. A proactive management style brings life, while a reactive management style barely keeps the team alive.

The proactive manager’s time and energy go into the solution, not the problem. The proactive manager foresees challenges and creates systems on how to overcome them. The proactive management type thrives and then helps their team to thrive as well.

The high level of morale that flows from proactive management is infectious. Quality people are drawn to this type of manager. They want to be part of the proactive management team.[3] 


When a leader is unwilling to do anything about the problem, people are unwilling to follow him as a leader. The biggest challenge for reactive managers is being unprepared. Being unprepared shows that you do not care about others’ time.

People can give you room and space to work on yourself. Or accept a change in direction to refocus an issue. However, people take it differently if they perceive you don’t care. That’s why morale is so low and why quality people jump ship when they realize that the manager isn’t able to fulfill their role as a leader.

Gasoline and Water: An Illustration of Influence

Imagine that there is a fire. Near the fire, there are two buckets. The first bucket contains water. The second bucket has gasoline. What you realize is that both buckets have the power to influence the fire. If your goal is to stoke the fire, which bucket would you use, and which bucket would you avoid?

As you already surmised, the fire is the workplace, while the buckets are the different management styles. The gasoline represents a proactive management style, and the water represents a reactive management style. The workplace is influenced by the style we use.

If you want to influence the workplace in a positive way that creates energy and momentum, then you will use a proactive management style. In contrast, you would use a reactive management style if you desired to stifle the power and slow the momentum down.

Given the benefit of the doubt, many people don’t purposely want to throw water on the fire of momentum. Some individuals may wish to do this, but this is a small percentage of managers who need to check their life choices.


How to Be a Proactive Manager

When asked, Ben Cosh, CEO of Leadership Jetway, who trains managers, shares his thoughts on how to be a proactive manager.

“To be a proactive manager, you must catch them doing something right and then tell them about it. Walk the line between proactive management and micromanager. So much of leadership and management is about balancing things in tension. You have to be confident, humble, decisive, and consultative. You have to learn the art of being proactive that empowers.”

1. Celebrate the Wins

Over the years, his words have played out. As a proactive manager, who wants to influence your team, you must catch people doing the right things and doing things right.

As a proactive manager, you need to take the next step and celebrate the good things you have discovered and honor them publicly.[4] People stay where they are celebrated but leave when they are criticized. In a world where managers are great at telling people what they are doing wrong, your words of encouragement and celebration will bring life.

2. Be Proactive and Micromanage Effectively

This is really challenging. It takes one to sit for a while and reflect on this statement. Most managers want everyone to walk freely and enjoy work. Isn’t that how proactive management should be? Then why micromanage?

John Maxwell once said,

“People do what you inspect, not what you expect.”

Be a manager of character who motivates and empowers your people, but also be a manager who inspects everything for excellence.


To close out with Ben’s statement,

“Set the intent and direction as proactively and clearly as you can but then ask your team to be proactive in pursuing that agenda. You want their ideas. You’ll let them try things. Also, ensure you ask lots of questions and genuinely listen to the answers. Let your team decide how to proceed as much as you can. Because you want to build a culture of proactivity that causes your productivity to skyrocket.”

Choosing the Right Path

You must refer to this statement when asked how proactive management influences the workplace. Since everything rises and falls on leadership, the manager’s responsibility is to develop themselves into a leader who operates proactively and with character. When the leader gets this right, the team will follow. The leadership team’s job is to create the culture that drives the organization.

Final Thoughts

As a proactive manager, you must continually promote, equip, and empower proactive team members. As a proactive manager, you are the gasoline on their fire. However, you can’t give what you do not have. So if you are not consistently developing yourself towards higher levels, you will be unable to move your team towards the goal. Leadership teams are symbiotic in that the leader, manager, and team members must work together towards a common goal.

If any of that is out of sync, expect failure and lower morale. However, when in sync, the proactive manager wields an incredible influence that directs the entire workplace.

So, the question is, will you be your team’s gasoline or their water? Will you use your Influence to stoke the fires of momentum or put it out? The choice is entirely in your hands. What you do next could forever influence the trajectory of the team.

Choose wisely.


Don't have time for the full article? Read this.

How A Proactive Management Style Can Influence a Workplace

As a proactive manager, you must continually promote, equip, and empower proactive team members.

Reactive management style is assumption-based over evidence-based. A proactive management style is evidence-based and process-oriented.

The high level of morale that flows from proactive management is infectious. Quality people are drawn to this type of manager.

When a leader is unwilling to do anything about the problem, people are unwilling to follow him as a leader. The biggest challenge for reactive managers is being unprepared.

To be the best proactive manager, constantly work on developing yourself.


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