I believe that at the core of every good leader is a common trait of being proactive. A proactive person understands that they are responsible for their own lives; how the act and what they do is a result of decisions they made based on value. There is a lot of meaning in that statement, so please read it again. Proactive leaders do not execute decisions based on emotions and conditions; they have initiative and feel a responsibility to make things happen. So how can you be more proactive? Here are five ways:
- Don’t be driven by your feelings. I realize that like the Tin Man, most of us do not walk the “yellow brick road” looking for a heart. We are all humans and have feelings. A strong leader should have a heart but make decisions based on core values.
- Sit on your impulses. Have you ever made a decision when you were upset that you regretted later, or maybe you bought some fancy new piece of equipment at a continuing education conference because you were excited and told yourself you deserved it? You’re not the only one who has done these things! It is easy to get swept up in the moment. Go ahead and feel emotions in the moment—just don’t base your decisions on those fleeting feelings.
- Accept responsibility for your actions. This is so important! Often, people search for someone to blame when something goes wrong. Nothing proactive comes from accusations and negativity. Evaluate what went wrong and how you got there, and acknowledge these things. Mistakes happen. Using mistakes as a learning tool may result in a great learning experience and an opportunity for growth.
- Use proactive language. How often do you hear people say things as if they are trying to absolve themselves of any responsibility for what is going on in their lives? Examples of excuses are: “I had to do that,” “They won’t let me,” or “I’m just built this way.” Proactive people understand that they have a choice. They understand that whatever situation they are in is a result of previous decisions that they made, and their future will be based on the next decision they make. Nobody else but them and no other circumstances but their own control their lives. Instead of giving an excuse, they should say, “I chose to do that.”
- Keep your commitments. If you say you are going to do something, then make sure you do it! Proactive people have integrity, and integrity builds trust. Every time you break a commitment, you are being dishonest to a relationship and to yourself.
Pamela Marzban, DDS, FAGD