There’s room to debate about which of these methods of leadership might be best, but to be honest, each approach tends to work best in a particular environment and with certain people.
It’s fair to say, though, that core tenets of management and leadership style may be universal. For one thing, it almost always pays to be a proactive manager rather than a reactive one.
But what does that mean precisely, and how could you become a more proactive manager?
Why Proactive is Better Than Reactive
Being proactive means making decisions and taking actions that anticipates future developments, rather than in response to them after they’ve happened. For example, if you notice that one of the tires on your car is low on air pressure, the proactive move would be to fill it up; to delay longer, and only replace the tire after it pops would be reactive.
Why is proactive better than reactive in management?
· Issue prevention. If you behave proactively, you can avoid more problems that would otherwise arise. This is one reason preventive maintenance for vehicles is so crucial. When you pursue regular inspections, replace parts as needed, and recognize potential problems conscientiously and in advance, you can ensure your vehicle remains in good running condition for as long as possible.
· Issue mitigation. Proactive decision-making can also help you mitigate certain issues. Some problems may be unavoidable, but you can at least understand why those problems turn up and prepare to address them. If you’re exclusively reactive, sticky developments will more often achieve their full destructive force.
· Greater consistency and stability. Proactive managers tend to display greater consistency and stability. For example, if they conduct an inspection every day or follow rigorous procedures on a weekly basis, this could arguably be more time-consuming, but company performance is apt to be much more consistent than if everyone runs around putting out fires whenever they arise.
· More control. When you’re a manager, you have more control if you’re proactive. Reactive managers essentially give up the driver’s seat. Instead of directing and guiding developments, you’re merely reacting to them as they unfold.
Ultimately, this approach empowers you to:
· Save money. Generally, issues are much cheaper to prevent than to fix, and much cheaper to fix early than if you have to fix them later. If you’re consistently proactive, you likely to save your operation and your team lots of money.
· Save time. You will also save time. Proactive operation does take a greater time investment in some respects. But because you’re less likely to face nearly as many catastrophes, you’re more apt to save time in the long run.
· Reduce stress. People who work in environments that feature proactive approaches tend to be less stressed, since they have fewer emergencies to handle – and more predictable environments. We all benefit from less stress. Keep in mind as well that less stress isn’t just about personal wellness – it also relates to increasing productivity.
Tips for Being More Proactive
So what can you do to be more proactive, and less reactive?
· Understand your core responsibilities. First, identify what you’re responsible for. Depending on your role, your duties may be ambiguous, but you should be able to sit down and write a list of personnel or operations you have to keep running smoothly.
· Prioritize the future. Always prioritize the future over the present or the past. It might save time to skip an inspection, but that can hurt you in the long run. If you keep the future consistently in mind when you make decisions and execute them, you’ll inevitably become more proactive.
· Create consistent routines and processes. Consistency is key when it comes to demonstrating proactive leadership. The more consistent your routines and processes are, the better off your team will be.
· Anticipate potential issues. Think critically about the potential issues and emergencies that could arise in each situation. Most problems and emergencies are preventable, so what steps can you take to keep them from happening?
· Trust, but verify. The phrase “trust, but verify” originally comes from a Russian proverb, but it’s been recited and followed by leaders and managers all over the globe. It’s fair to trust your employees to follow your leadership, but it’s also wise to verify every time that they’ve completed their assignments.
· Learn from your mistakes. Even when you’re a proactive manager, you won’t be perfect. If and when you make a mistake, analyze it and learn from it so you don’t repeat it.
Almost any manager can benefit from an effort to be more proactive instead of reactive. If it doesn’t come naturally to you, this may take additional effort and practice – but your investment in yourself will be worth it.