Proactive Versus Reactive Leadership
We tech leaders tend to be reactionary by nature. We tend to wait for things to happen before we jump into “fix it” mode or help in a situation. Our introversion causes us to stay quiet and let things stir before we say anything.
While part of this is how we are wired, there’s an inherent problem with this. As a leader, this can make other team members see you as insecure or lacking confidence. Being quiet and unresponsive can work to our disadvantage in being looked at as leadership on our team and to other ministries we work alongside. So how do we let others know we want to lead and have the ability to without changing who we are? Here are a few things I do to make sure I am a proactive leader and not just a reactive one at my church.
1. Speak Up in Meetings
If you are invited to a planning meeting, you are seen as bringing value to the table of discussion. The worst thing you can do is be silent that entire meeting. I’m an introvert and I understand we usually like to take it in and don’t process things aloud like extroverts do. But you were invited so people can hear you thinking through and processing what’s being talked about. So if you remain silent, your silence typically is seen as agreement with the decision.
This has happened to me often. Ideas are thrown around, and I’m sitting there taking it all in, trying to figure out if what they’re saying is even possible. I’m processing every reason in my mind why it won’t work before I can give a yes, but I never verbalize anything. Then, three weeks later, leadership says, “I’m glad we all agreed on the new idea.” That’s when I have to raise my hand and let them know I don’t think it’s a good idea. Of course, that leaves leadership asking me why I didn’t say anything three weeks ago when they invited me in on the meeting. If you’re like me, you can relate.
Our problem is that we aren’t ready to say anything because we haven’t processed it internally yet. That usually takes a bit of time. What I have learned, though, is to say something like, “That’s an interesting idea. If we are leaning toward it, I need a little bit of time to process it and see if it’s even possible. I’ll get back to you.” This gives you some time to process it, but it also acknowledges to other that you have some reservations.
The opposite of this would be if you jumped into every idea that is thrown out and tell everyone all the reasons it won’t work. In your mind you think you’re being helpful, but what others hear is a bunch of no’s. If you’re an extrovert, you have to be aware this might be how you’re coming across to others.
2. Communicate Verbally and Often
This is different than speaking up in meetings. I’m talking about daily communication to leaders around you. Things like “I haven’t forgot about you and your idea” or “still processing what we talked about”. This helps others around you know that you are thinking about the big picture and proactively, on your own, processing the ideas and decisions of leadership.
It’s not that you aren’t doing it already; it’s that no one knows you’re doing it. Because we like to get buried in our work, others around us don’t realize that we’re thinking about or caring about other things. I’ve had many tech operators stare at me while I talk about why we need to change what we just did for the next service and not know if they are processing it or tuned completely. If there is no verbal or physical communication, I have no way of knowing. But sure enough, when next service comes and the same moment happens, they make the change and I realize they heard every word.
It’s easy to forget the importance of communication. But it’s a vital part of proactive leadership. Leaders verbalize communication to others so everyone understands you’re on the same page.
Understand: I struggle with these same things because I am naturally an introverted tech person. But I also understand the benefits for my church of proactive leadership and need to do my part in making it happen. That way others know I’m on board and part of the whole picture – not just buried in my small part.