What Was I Thinking: “Re-Active” Thinking

While “In-active” people are frustrating and “Neg-active” people are exhausting, “Re-active” people are useful. They are problem-solvers and fire fighters; they perform triage. Leaders need “Re-Active” people who jump into action, are at their best under pressure, and excel when faced with a challenge. They get things done.

Many business and organizational leaders who have been internally promoted within their organization are “Re-active.” You see, if you are a problem solver and a fire fighter who “fixes things” for the organization, you get noticed. This notice typically comes in the form of more responsibility and a promotion. Sound good? Enter the “Peter Principle.”

The “Peter Principle” says that in business/organizations, people tend to be promoted to a level of incompetence (Laurence Peter and Raymond Hull, 1968). The Peter Principle holds that employees are promoted so long as they work competently. Sooner or later, they are promoted to a position at which they are no longer competent. I would suggest that they do not suddenly become incompetent, but that their “thinking” becomes counter-productive as they move along the responsibility line of supervisor, manager, leader and executive.

How do “Re-active” people think? Here are some examples:

Responsive: Ready to respond
Emergency focused: Waiting for a problem to solve
Affected: Stimulated by problems
Compelled: Driven to resolve problems
Tied-up: Kept occupied and engaged in circumstances
Inflamed: Excited by actions and feelings
Victimized: Controlled by external means
Enslaved: Burdened and controlled

The problem with “Re-active” thinking is that it operates in the past and under the control and influence of past circumstances. The very nature of reaction is response to a stimulus. That means the stimulus is in control. Problem solving, crisis management and conflict resolution are reactive activities, but effective people quickly move from a reactive stage to the initial stage of problem solving.

Effective, constructive leaders are “Pro-Active,” rooted in a way of thinking that promotes choices that drive constructive, effective, decision-making and moves individuals, teams and departments in a positive, rational, optimistic direction. “Pro-Active” leaders facilitate the circumstances and environment that leads to constructive results.


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