There’s a difference between responding and reacting. And as a leader you always want to be on the side of the former.
An effective leader responds to circumstances with well thought out action. They have contingency plans set in place for a number of scenarios and enact them when appropriate while keeping a cool head. This is a leader that is responsible, emotionally intelligent and reliable.
A responsible team leader has built up a series of soft skills and communication styles in order to leverage their already well developed technical skills. They possess emotional intelligence and elevate their team members with honesty, trust and appropriate delegation of duties.
On the other hand, reactionary leadership carries tasks out in a “knee-jerk” fashion. This type of leadership is bereft of forethought and analytical skills that follow an articulate line of reasoning. The reactionary leader does not take initiative to prevent specific circumstances from befalling them.
This type of leadership fails to set clear cut expectations for their team members to work with so when a team member fails to meet goals, the leader tends to “reprimand” them. This discourages the team member and makes them feel inadequate. This type of environment can be observed to have high turnover rates in a toxic work place.
So which one are you? Are you the responsible leader or the reactionary leader?
Below, I’ve highlighted 6 detrimental tendencies of reactionary leadership.
Busy Work Addiction
Unfortunately, some leaders think that the busier they are, the more effective they are. This is not true. In fact, the busier you are the less mental energy you have to execute proper responses to crisis.
The truth is that highly efficient leaders aren’t that busy. Jeff Bezos is a perfect example of a leader who creates space in his day and organizes his time strategically.
In this article it states:
“Once he’s up, Bezos takes some time for himself: ‘I like to putter in the mornings,’ he said.
‘I like to read the newspaper, I like to have coffee, I like to have breakfast with my kids before they go to school,’ Bezos explained. ‘My puttering time is very important to me.’ — CNBC.com
There were times when I felt as though I was being more effective as a leader by “keeping busy.” It’s gratifying to the ego and we can get lost in busy work.
Paper work, checking emails and arranging things for no logical reason are all things that I’ve done to make myself feel like I’m doing “important stuff.”
But all this busywork serves to lead us down the road of redundancy. Soon your critical thinking skills will atrophy and you won’t be able to respond when you need to, hence why you’ll inevitably resort to reacting to everything you come across.
Failure To Make Decisions
Decision making skills is a huge aspect of effective leadership. Much of decision making is being quick-witted but it’s also taking pause to think about the appropriate route to take for solving a complex problem.
The reactionary leader makes decisions in haste which always leads to the wrong outcomes.
While taking pause to figure out a complex solution to a complex problem is essential, becoming petrified is a different type of pause. Some leaders freeze up after a crisis has manifested then they fail to make any decisions at all. They panic and overthink solutions which throws them into catatonia.
This is all for naught because most of the time making a particular decision might not lead to the “correct” outcome anyway so there’s no use in overthinking.
Peter Drucker says:
“A decision is a judgment. It is a choice between alternatives. It is rarely a choice between right and wrong. It is at best a choice between “almost right” and “probably wrong” — but much more often a choice between two courses of action neither of which is provably more nearly right than the other.” — The Effective Executive, Peter Drucker
Make a decision. But be responsible about your decision making. Think it through with the most logical steps available to you and hope for the best.
Deep Rooted Insecurity
Many insecure people end up landing leadership roles with the wrong intentions in mind. These are people who usually have a “chip on their shoulder” or something to prove.
This is leadership that takes advantage of their role to exact personal goals instead of being inclusive of the teams aspirations. Any person or circumstance that threatens this leaders intent, is met with a tongue lashing.
Insecure leadership routinely feels “threatened” by any other person who gives off respectable, confident vibes. They typically take many statements made by others the wrong way and frequently feel disrespected.
Lack Of Delegation
Rather than trusting each team member in their respective roles to carry out their respective tasks, reactionary leadership types hijack the scene by trying to do everything themselves. Think: control freak and perfectionist.
This type of leadership will interrupt a team member who isn’t working fast enough because they think they’re can do it faster and more efficiently. By doing so, this holds team members growth potential back. This type of. behavior doesn’t give anyone else a chance to excel.
If this sounds like you, quit micromanaging and trust your team to do the job they were hired for. Obviously they were vetted before being offered the position.
Trust them to do their job.
Lack Of Organization
How are your organization skills? Some people tend to be more organized than others due to their upbringing, training or personality.
As for me, I couldn’t stand working in an unorganized work environment. I did everything I could to keep my area neat and clean. Do you live in a constant state of disorder?
When you work in a constant state of disorganization, you won’t know where anything is. You’ll be ill prepared for pressing events and become forced to react the best way you can with what you have which might end up being just a stapler.
Failure To Prioritize
The reactionary leader fails to prioritize. They fail to do the most important thing first. This goes hand in hand with the obsession with busy work that leads down a path of redundancy and inefficiency.
Do you prioritize? Do you make a list of your professional priorities? Failing to do so sets you up for rivals to swoop in and take your spot.
The world needs effective leadership that can lead teams to their superordinate goals. Failing to prioritize undermines this whole process.
A Final Note
I’ve seen enough reactionary leadership in my time to know how damaging it can be to staff. Heck, I’ve even exhibited some of these tendencies at some point in my professional career.
It’s the willingness to grow and improve as not only a professional in a leadership role but as an individual.
Dealing with insecurity issues and lack of organizational skills are two of the most crucial issues to confront. Improvement in these two areas leads to improvement in prioritizing and decision making.
As a leader, or emerging leader, you should always be engaged in the never-ending process of self-improvement.