Reactive vs. Proactive Leadership

In today’s business environment we’ve too often become hyper focused on the bottom line. Quarter over quarter results and month over month results become the target for our leaders. The end result is a narrow and provincial focus in the way we operate, but it’s also fostering a systemic issue in the way we think about leadership. When our focus shifts to the short term, our behaviors align to what’s measured and what’s rewarded. Our leaders become so heavily focused on the short-term that they lead only for results. To borrow a metaphor from the world of education, they begin to teach to the test.

The problem isn’t that they’re missing their targets; it’s that this hyper focus on the near term takes them away from seeing the big picture and forces them to be reactive instead of proactive in their leadership. In today’s environment there’s already so much noise and so many variables in play that by default we’re already playing defensively. This isn’t soccer, a good defense doesn’t always equate to a good offense. The problem with leading from your heels is that you’re out of position; you’re too focused on the next fire drill and not focused enough on the right initiatives.

We see this transpire all of the time in our consulting at Prescient Strategists. It’s a real problem in most of the organizations we work in. There are very few leads that we see who are pulling up from the weeds and thinking about longer term time horizons. Leaders need to set a vision, they need to lead from a place that cuts through the clutter and the noise, it’s up to them to identify the strategy and create sustainability. Sure, they need to be nimble, and in today’s business world things are moving so quickly, that you’re bound to be thrown on your heels, but you can’t stay there and operate as an effective leader day in and day out. Find your offense, get your strategy together, and go make something happen. Don’t let the short term distractions or disruptions take you too far off course. Give your strategy some time to take root before you pull back from it and get caught up on the immediacy that defines today’s world.

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