Leaders Initiate

People who are initiating often anticipate opportunities and problems and call attention to them.

If you’ve ever been a part of a Group Dynamic session, you’ve seen this shopping cart picture. We can spend an hour or more on what it symbolizes; we usually use it to introduce the Four Levels of Maturity. Today, it serves as an example of the opposite of initiating, which is “reactive.” Reactive leaders tend to take action as the result of some event or problem, and are unlikely to seek out solutions without prompting.

In this picture, the leadership of that strip mall is reactive. They have no cart corrals. They have dead trees in off-center landscaping. They justify their inaction with excuses like, “No-one has gotten hurt”, “There are plenty of places to park”, “The lot is small; they can bring their carts back.”

I spoke with M Booth team member Emily Metcalfe, and asked for an example of initiating leadership on their team. She immediately brought up Moon Kim. A few posts ago, we heard about Moon’s skill as an expressive leader. Emily points out how proactivity can make the difference, and Moon nails it.

Emily brings up a common workflow issue in PR and media relations; clients often want many approaches to situations presented. “The client is not the PR expert”, explained Emily. “So, they’ll often give us directions, but they’re not always explicit because they trust our expertise. A normal project might require many attempts before we get it just right.”

“One project required us to do a lot of research”, Emily explains. “Moon scheduled a brainstorm. We looked at every single angle to approach the project, and we picked the top three to act on.”

This is not all that unusual; prioritizing and trimming options is a typical next step after a brainstorming process. When it’s done, you focus. But Moon initiated something unusual – something that coached others to initiate as well. She assigned every other possible angle – beyond those top three – to members of the team, just in case they missed something.

Moon knows the client, and her team members, so well that she knows how to initiate the elimination of blind alleys efficiently, while still leaving no stone unturned. “She really respects my time”, Emily goes on. “I’d never experienced this before in a professional setting. It was really refreshing how she approached it. She’s like this with everyone. Always looking to see what we can do. Always proactive and anticipating questions and problems.”

Instead of reacting, initiate.

Thanks for reading,

Alan Feirer

Initiating is a leadership behavior that helps drive Momentum during the Execution process of the Work of Leaders.

To learn more about an assessment that measures and guides growth for leaders and potential leaders, start here.

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This is the fourteenth post in an 18-part series. Throughout the series, I’ll be providing real-world negative examples from a variety of settings.

For positive examples, we’ll look at one specific case study: the Small Business Saturday initiative from American Express. Small Business Saturday has become part of the holiday shopping lexicon (positioned between Black Friday and Cyber Monday) and reminds us to “Shop Small” and keep our dollars local. It’s been tremendously successful and is a huge initiative, but there’s a behind-the-scenes story that lifts up best practices in leadership we can all adopt; not every leader or team member involved is a high-level executive at American Express. In fact, much of the effort was a product of the work of a specific team at M Booth, a mid-sized award winning PR firm. Follow along to learn more. To start at the first post in this series, click here.

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