The 1 tactic to be a more effective leader

Photo by Miguel A. Amutio on Unsplash

Effective leaders are proactive.

Since 2016, I’ve coached 100+ leaders from countries around the world. Since 2015, I’ve released more podcast episodes than I can count which have been played millions of times on Apple or Spotify. That context matters. I’ve had countless conversations, some that start at the surface, most that dive into the depth of leadership. Over the years I’ve learned a few things about what sets apart the best leaders from the good ones.

In reality, most leaders are reactive.

You know the type: the one that brags about how busy he is or the one that is always running from meeting to meeting, from task to task. An “emergency” lurks behind every corner. In fact, these leaders are so reactive, they don’t even protect their time to eat lunch. They falsely believe, “I don’t have time to sit down and have a lunch.”

Believe it or not, leadership doesn’t have to always be stressful working late into the night, missing meals, and never having time for yourself or your family. There are leaders who exist that have a tremendous impact and do so in a calm, cool, and collected way. They make leadership look easy.

What’s the secret? These leaders are proactive.

One way to be proactive is to journal your challenges.

I answer five questions in my journal each morning. One of those questions is: What might be a challenge today and how can I navigate past it? Naivete is coasting through your day expecting that at no point will things get hard. This lack of preparedness is a recipe for reactiveness and (maybe) disaster. The solution is simple.

Scan your calendar each morning and look for what might be challenging. Now, quickly jot down how you might prepare for that challenge.

A second way to be proactive is to consider secondary consequences.

It’s relatively easy to predict what a primary consequence might be after a given action. Let’s say you’re a principal deciding whether or not to fire a teacher. The teacher is underperforming in the classroom (you have plenty of evidence), but they are loved in the community (the teacher is a football coach, volunteers, and raises money for a number of student causes). By firing the teacher you have an immediate opportunity that most likely will improve the quality of instruction.

But the secondary consequences are less clear (if they’re considered at all):

  • How will the community respond?
  • Will the central office and board support you?
  • What are the chances that the teacher you hire is worse?
  • What are the chances you find a teacher who is better instructionally and also a successful coach?

The potential positive and negative outcomes are vast. Taken together you have a complete picture of the choice you are about to make.

By thinking through all the outcomes, you can prepare for them and be proactive.

A third way to be proactive is to focus and stop multitasking.

The classic reactive way of operating is multitasking. The research is clear that multitasking hurts productivity; it can lower your impact by as much as 40%. If you are bouncing from “Task A” to “Task B” and back again, you are not giving full focus or full effort. Less than full focus leads to mistakes that cause problems later on and put leaders back into react mode. Each day has a finite amount of time. Choose to focus on your most important work.

Look for the “lead domino” — the one task that after completion makes the other tasks either easier or unnecessary.

I cannot even imagine meeting a leader who is both ineffective and proactive.

In this post, I shared three ideas that can make you lead in a proactive manner if you take action.

If you enjoyed these tips, I share seven more actionable ideas on being proactive in this popular blog post.

Host of the Better Leaders Better Schools podcast with over one million downloads 🚀