As a leader, you can either invest your time in preemptive leadership by training your people from the beginning and pulling them together all along, or reactive leadership where you find yourself on the back-end of every issue, always solving problems and putting out fires.
Preemptive leadership will always give you the advantage. Which style of leadership do you practice?
If you were given the choice of preventing low morale versus knowing how to lift it when it gets low, what would you choose? How about preventing drama versus dealing with it? Or, preventing miscommunication on a team versus patching things up after misunderstandings occur?
One could argue for either side. Which would you choose?
Those who prefer to operate in reactive leadership may question the value of keeping the team happy, cohesive, communicative, and close. They may think, This is not really needed. This is a waste of time. Or, this is too costly. I just want to get the job done. So you see them driving their people to their breaking points repeatedly. And the symptoms are apparent. In the least, people are not consistently happy.
And don’t be deceived. Customers and clients can tell whether your team is happy or not. And that matters to them. They want to be in a relaxed and comfortable environment. But even if you were to set happiness aside, productivity, creativity, and cooperation will also all be sporadic when you practice reactive leadership.
I would vote for prevention. Where preemptive leadership is exercised, generosity is seen. A preemptive leader sacrifices and does everything in his or her power to make sure people are cared for and taken care of, not just so they can do the job, but just because. Preemptive leaders give people the sense that they are loved. People, therefore, love their jobs. Every team member gives more than expected. Because that’s the culture. We all give more, before it is necessary.
It is the same in medicine as in leadership. My goal with my patients is to keep them healthy, to prevent a heart attack for example, not to wait until it happens and then treat it. Why? Simply because a heart attack can kill you or cause irreparable damage. It’s true, prevention requires a greater investment of your time and resources in the beginning. More training, more meetings, more caring, more talking, more strategizing. Those who argue that this is too costly, however, forget that it costs much more if you wait and let problems infest your team. It’s like waiting until a heart attack happens rather than choosing healthy, preventative habits all along.
When you wait until problems occur and then fix them, the cost and damage may be long-lasting. When morale is low, when drama is high, or when misunderstandings are part of the daily culture, people begin to feel on edge. Then, they always expect there to be problems, so they keep their guard up versus focusing on being creative and excelling in their strengths. When relationships get strained, often you run the risk of long-term ineptitude and general malaise of your team and organization.
And that is much more costly.
3 Steps to Practice Preemptive Leadership
I hope I have made the case for preemptive leadership. Now, allow me share how to consistently practice it. Prevention can be attained in three basic steps.
- Communicate regularly. The key here is this: transparency, consistency, and authenticity. Communicate from the heart, one-on-one and in group settings, as often as needed to keep relationships healthy and vibrant. You figure out the frequency for your team and with your people. For me, I have found that meeting with my direct reports at least once a week is key. For my team, short daily meetings (15 to 20 mins) keep all of us informed and tightly knit. And these meetings are not all business. We must see each other’s humanity before we can help each other professionally.
- Know your people. To be able to prevent issues, you must be able to predict how people would feel or behave. You cannot do that accurately if you don’t know them. Really know them. Where are they on their life journey? What are their needs? Where are their emotional limitations? What value system do they operate from? What are their fears, and dreams? This takes effort, time and resources to know your people. But it pays off.
- Always anticipate. This means relying on intuition and listening to your heart. Face facts and pay attention to trends. Tune in and always be switched “on.” Not to be suspicious of your people, but like a good parent, to be acutely attentive to the slightest change in your team’s health.
When there are no problems in a team, I know there must be a tireless leader, anticipating, communicating, and working hard to always know her people and meet their needs: a leader practicing preemptive leadership.
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