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When to Use Reactive Leadership to Help Your Team Thrive

by Julie Miles / August 17, 2022

In recent years, a great deal has been said about the benefits of being a proactive leader. Making plans, charging ahead, pushing your team toward success and preparing for predictable setbacks ahead of time are all great qualities. But the last thing we want to do is discourage leaders from knowing when to be reactive.

A reactive leader is someone who takes responsibility in the moment. In times of opportunity or in crisis, they are the most likely person to have an idea, a plan of action, and an intuitively correct solution that can be enacted quickly – no planning required. Reactive leaders can handle the unexpected with aplomb, but they can also thrive on identifying and immediately actualizing opportunities along the way.

Today, we’re talking about when it’s time to utilize reactive leadership in your management and business strategies.

Reactive Leaders Think On Their Feet

The qualities of a reactive leader include the ability to think quickly, creatively, and logically in an emerging situation. Whether the unexpected is good or bad, a reactive leader knows how to turn the situation to minimize challenges and optimize opportunity. A reactive leader may see the fastest solution to a problem or the most creative way to use the resources available to achieve the best result.

Reactive leaders can handle emergencies, sudden changes in plan, and and sudden chances to thrive with equal grace and agility. Reactive leaders have been known to thrive both when keeping a routine office fresh and motivated or leading a field team under constantly changing conditions. By thinking on your feet, you can make the most of any situation, good or bad, as it arises using whatever tools, training, and existing knowledge is available.

Reactive Leaders have Firefighter Qualities When Facing Challenges

Reactive leadership can help business leader develop “Firefighter Qualities” when handling emergency situations. The ability to calmly assess an evolving situation, prioritize what matters most and what can’t be neglected, and then executing a newly formed plan without hesitation are all hallmarks of an effectively reactive leader.

A honed skill for reactive leadership is exactly what you want when the unexpected happens and your proactive plan is thrown out the window.

Realizing and Optimizing on Opportunity

While reactivity is known for putting out fires, reactive leadership often shines brightest when claiming opportunities. Proactive leaders with a plan may be more inflexible when it comes to changing that plan in light of new clients, new resources, new research, or even a chance to partner with other businesses for an incredible limited-scope benefit.

Reactive leaders can see how their plans could be changed to accommodate new opportunities and optimize on whatever benefit they offer. This can mean getting better deals, closing with more clients, or even utilizing new technology and business services more effectively without having to fully rebuild the grand plan.

Reactive Management of Stress and Morale

We mentioned that reactive leadership is also useful in a routine office. Many office teams perform the same set of tasks every week and month, limiting the options for a proactive leader to meeting planning tool optimization, and the occasional team event. Reactive management, however, allows managers to narrow their focus within the scope of the routine. By staying attuned to your team member's evolving morale, stress level, and engagement, you can fine-tune your management style to keep everyone interested and working at their best.

Looking at a different interesting metric (number of words typed, total number of products calculated, number of times the word “ergo” was used in the last month) can remind everyone that the routine work is alive and serves a purpose. Talking to the right employee, showing empathy, sharing rewards, giving encouragement, and signing your team up for professional development are all type so reactive management that keep stress low and morale high.

This approach also works well when reacting to the needs of an active and high-stress team by staying tuned into the needs of your team – who needs more challenge, who needs a break, and who is currently unlocking new potential.

Reactively Motivating Employees When They Do Well

Reactive leadership can also be more directly motivating for employees. How do you know when to distribute employee recognitions and rewards? A protective system might push employees to achieve goals – but a reactive leader can also recognize when an employee has really done well all on their own – even without a performance or recognition program already in place.

A reactive leader makes the difference by recognizing an employee’s hard work and rewarding them for it. They are also more able to tailor the reward to what is most beneficial.  An employee really cracking into the technical side of their job may be most rewarded by sponsored training in that direction. An employee who strives to finish all their work before an approved vacation might appreciate an extra day for making sure there was no backlog before they go.

That kind of recognition is what forms dedicated teams, high job satisfaction, and really reflects well on the leader.

Combining Reactive and Proactive Leadership

Of course, the best leaders are those who can make great plans, set goals, take action to achieve them, and is also reactive to the changing needs and circumstances of the business around them. Reactive leadership styles are best complimented by proactive planning and the ability to break out of a rut that forms in a more reactive day-to-day environment.

If proactive leadership allows you to step out and see the big picture, reactive leadership is your essential on-the-ground ability to make every situation the best it can be, based on what is happening and what is available to you in each moment. Adopting solid, efficient systems gifts more time to improving your leadership style. Great leaders and great teams are built in many different ways. Learn more about how outsourcing your HCM, like with Platinum Group can help. 

Tags: Employee Leadership Organizational Strengths Agile Workforce Reactive Leadership

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Julie Miles

Julie Miles

Julie’s passion is to act as a liaison between the Platinum team, their wonderful clients, and the community, striving to tell their stories and make connections.