Pro-Active Leaders, Active Managers and Bad Re-Active Managers

Screen Shot 2015-04-19 at 12.56.40 PMThe Leadership Platform article ‘The Universal Law of Movement’ by Adriaan Groenewald asks a question … “How can I help move this situation in a positive direction?”

My response to this question is ‘As people we are called to make a difference in the lives of others, thus leaving people better than we found them’. The operative word in this statement for me is leaving; once we have helped we need to leave people to find their own direction and grow – that is leadership.

Let’s look at what movement really means in terms of leadership. When we can agree that the correct question is “How can I help move this situation in a positive direction?”,  then what is expected from a leader?

The only way a leader can contribute to the positive direction is by adopting a pro-active approach. Should his position simply be active, this is seen as a neutral state – an approach which managers assume in most situations. Bad managers (yes, the useless ones) will always be reactive and effectively they will always wonder what happened. Everything seems to take them by surprise, and that is simple to understand, because if you are not part of the process you can never anticipate what may happen.

It’s this anticipation of events that makes a leader effective. He is able to be pro-active because he can feel a situation, working through various scenarios and looking for solutions to problems before they start, therefore avoiding a potential crisis. Will the leader always get this right? No, on his own it would be virtually impossible, but we know that leadership is about effectively working with people – and a great leader will trust the pro-activeness of the others leaders in his midst; good leaders are never intimidated by the suggestions and pro-activeness of others.

Let’s look at a few examples to illustrate Pro-Active, Active and Reactive

EXAMPLE 1 : A potential Fire 

Pro-Active : Remove the possibility of fire. Fires need three components – oxygen, heat, combustible material; removing any of these will alleviate the possibility of danger, and having a serviced fire extinguisher close by will be the most pro-active approach.

Active : Fire starts, put fire out – respond immediately to the situation.

Re-Active: Wait for the fire alarm and then respond by calling the fire brigade.

EXAMPLE 2 – Short Tempered Team Member

Pro-Active : You notice the behaviour displayed by the person in other situations, they may have a short fuse and as a leader you anticipate how that behaviour will play out in difficult situations. So you either give the person a different task that will effectively remove them from the potential crisis, or if they are an integral part of the solution – you brief them to ensure they remain part of the solution and never become part of the problem.

Active : Behaviour is dealt with as it happens, often surprising the manager, but the manager is able to find a solution even though it may have caused a disruption thus slowing the process of finding the solution considerably.

Re-Active : The behaviour occurs and we wonder what happened. Rather than finding a possible solution, we often simply judge the actions of the person – instead of looking at the environment or interactions that caused the situation. Our approach is system orientated and because the system did not give us a solution, a crisis is likely to occur.

EXAMPLE 3 : Relationships

Pro-Active : Anticipate the need, gain the information long before you need it so that you can preempt the needs of your partner before they ask, thus giving them the security of knowing you have their best interests at the top of your mind. Your actions show that you care and are pro-active about growing and nurturing the relationship to even greater levels.

Active : Give and take 50/50, aware of each other’s needs and wants. Most of your time is spent doing your own thing, not thinking about the needs of the other person until you are told. You will always ask what they would like for their birthday and that is exactly what you get for them, very little creativity is expressed because you have failed to understand their needs unless you are told.

Re-Active : You are presented with and told about the problem before you realise it is a problem, you are self-centred and self-serving. The question must be asked what are you actually in the relationship for? You probably forget their birthday and you seldom buy them a gift for their birthday.


Pro-Active : Is about anticipating needs and potential situations and finding solutions before the need arises. This is effectively achieved by being part of the processes and trusting the people around you.

Active : You have a reasonable state of preparedness and simply address needs as they arise. You may even think about what it is you could have or should have done, but those thoughts are seldom translated into the action that you need to be pro-active.

Re-Active : Always wonder what happened, it’s always the circumstances that caused the problem and you were never in the wrong. If only the people around you were better!

Therefore, if you have chosen either to be neutral and wait for something to happen so that you can actively do something, or if you are waiting for a need before you respond with a delayed action, well simply you are either a bad manager or at best only a manager. Leaders, however, look at the original question: “How can I help move this situation in a positive direction?” These leaders are then pro-active and move together with the other leaders and the team to anticipate and alleviate the potential hazards, thereby achieving the goals through these actions.

Photo credit: alles-schlumpf / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

About RichSimmondsZA

Retired but still Disruptive
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2 Responses to Pro-Active Leaders, Active Managers and Bad Re-Active Managers

  1. RichSimmondsZA says:

    If you have read this article – you actually need to ask yourself if any of the ACTIVE examples are true. Personally I believe there are no neutrals in life – you are either growing or slowly dying and you are either pro-active or reactive.


  2. This is so helpful. Kudos Rich!!


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