Harnessing Proactivity & Reactivity

Most of the time, I tend to be proactive in all aspects of my life. I think this has come with many years of experience, training and reflection.

My proactive behaviour comes in large part from my ability to organize and prioritize. As a school principal, one of the most important jobs I have is to see the big picture (vision), to guide and to work along side my teams towards continuous improvement and growth. In order to do this, as a leader I have to be able to identify and eliminate ahead of time as many roadblocks as possible. By introducing effective and efficient processes, we are able to avoid situations that would have created frustration, thus slowing down progress and production.

However, I can be reactive – maybe even more often than I would like to be. Over the years, I’ve come to realize that it usually happens whenever my emotions run high. For example, if a member of my team demonstrates poor ethics in their behaviour, that usually gets my blood boiling! Why? Because ethics for me is extremely important. Good ethics demonstrates respect towards yourself as well as others. It demonstrates empathy and good will. So whenever something like that happens, I become reactive, almost protective of the people and culture that the transgression threatens. Thankfully, most of the time I am able to take a moment to get through this reactive stage internally, or by talking with a colleague or my wife about it, and transition into a solutions-based mindset.

Being proactive has always helped our change-management efforts. When I am proactive, it pushes me towards collaboration and team work. I have understood a long time ago the importance and wisdom of the African proverb:

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

African proverb

Being proactive not only allows us to remove ahead of time bumps in the road, but it also allows us to develop positive and productive cultures. More importantly, it provides us opportunities to develop other leaders. 

Being reactive can have its positives as well. In my case, it usually brings out the passion in me, and can be a very powerful driving force. However, I have to be careful, because that reaction can also create negative energy and stress. If I can’t manage my “reactiveness”, then I cannot be an effective leader. Being able to harness that reactive energy and combine it in a positive way with proactivity continues to be something that I work on to improve as a leader.

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