Hypothesize the following scenario:
You are leading a major software implementation with a customer. During the project, there is a major change of leadership within the business. New people have assumed senior positions and have some very different opinions about the project. In most cases, it is a real possibility that you would lose the work. What if you didn’t? What if you could quickly implement a plan that ensured you navigated potential headwinds and kept the customer happy? This is what a proactive leader would do.
What is a proactive leader?
A proactive leader is someone who often anticipates challenges and can quickly devise a plan to overcome them. It is the opposite of a reactive leader, who is less expectant of obstacles and has to work quickly to ‘firefight’ when unexpected change happens.
Today’s business leaders face unprecedented changes in ways of working. Geopolitical events affect employees more than ever, and with most businesses increasingly accelerating digitalization strategies, proactive leadership has never been more critical.
What makes a proactive leader?
A proactive leader constantly scans their environment for signs of risk and works on measures that prevent problems from occurring altogether or significantly reduces their impact. As a result, projects led by proactive leaders typically run-on time, on budget, and to a high standard. Reactive leadership is less advantageous. Those who cannot anticipate and plan for change typically plan in preventative steps that take too long and struggle to make quick corrections and adjustments.
I believe anybody can demonstrate proactive leadership – not just those in the C-Suite. In most cases, it is a mindset rather than a skill. Moving from reactive to proactive leadership requires people to re-learn many of their behaviors by starting to think proactively, identifying the potential for change, and implementing processes to mitigate these instances.
The benefits of proactive leadership are twofold. For SAP, it brings us closer to our customers and builds trust. Why? Because they know where their project stands and is heading, and potential challenges have been considered and mitigated. For the customer, it means they gain added value; SAP is the valuable business partner rather than simply a technology supplier.
Of course, not even the most proactive leader is immune from challenges – crises do happen – they are an inevitable part of life. However, those with a proactive mindset approach a crisis with confidence, determination, and a plan, compared to those who exist in a state of reaction who may struggle to effect change.
In an ever-changing world, can your leaders afford not to be proactive?