Phase 5 – Enlightened Momentum Building – “Are Managers Reactive, while Leaders are Proactive?”-10.24.17

by Peter A. Arthur-Smith, Leadership Solutions, Inc.®

“Managers are deemed to be more today oriented, while real leaders are more likely to be tomorrow focused”.



 Time and again various experts look to managers to take care of the day-to-day, while they expect leaders to be more interested in tomorrow. If this holds true, and there is plenty of evidence out there in various articles and among organization thinkers to suggest that it is, then we can likely identify the probable cause of so much reactive behavior in various organizations…especially as it seems that managers vastly outnumber leaders.


As this writer puts pen to paper, in drafting this article, he’s carefully monitoring the day-to-day condition of a hospitalized, lifelong friend in Europe. Apparently, earlier in the same week, his friend was enveloped by a sepsis state – the body’s traumatic reaction to a serious infection. This writer was left wondering why this should have happened.


His friend had been hospitalized for the second time since his surgery was completed at another highly regarded medical institution some three hours driving time away. His local hospital became well aware of his many post-op issues during his second re-admission and was supposedly monitoring his condition on an hourly basis. The question is therefore: Why did they have to wait for the sepsis condition to occur? Why weren’t they anticipating this and doing everything they could to prevent it from occurring?


Such incidences are a stark reminder of the differences between reactive and proactive modes. Currently, nurses and interns are expected to manage their patients through whatever monitoring schedule is required; be that every 5 minutes, hourly, daily or whatever. Meantime, doctors and surgeons ought to be leading their patients’ recovery by proactively steering them toward a positive outcome; if that’s within their nature to do so? The demarcation between the two groups is often stark, exacerbated by traditional hierarchical thinking within hospitals.


Demarcation gaps allow critical patient issues to fall between the cracks. Does it have to be this way? (NOTE: Frontline staff should largely manage day-to-day activities, although they should still also have a 10-20% forward thinking lead role. Whereas, higher-order experts – like doctors and surgeons – and organization leaders should still have a 20-60% management role, depending on the scope of their responsibilities, where they’re also focused on today. When such thinking is in place, it creates opportunities for some overlap, communication and synergizing.)


Questions like this pop-up time and again when experiencing and hearing about ineffectiveness in many organization spheres. At the moment of writing, we’re witnessing tremendous devastation in Puerto Rico as a result of hurricanes Irma and Maria. TV visuals show tremendous hardships and disillusionment with the lack of food and relief supplies after nearly two weeks. All the indications are that government authorities are reacting to the disaster rather than having anticipated and positioned themselves for fast after-relief before the killer storm arrived…at least having everything in place and organized seems an obvious thing to do. One can envisage that it would only then require the President to press a green button to bring lightening relief, if necessary.


Momentum is built through a combination of seamless interaction between proactive and reactive modes that builds upon itself: one group telegraphing or handing-off to the other through synergistic communication. One mode without the other leads to dysfunction. If you take continuous motion sports teams like soccer, ice hockey, rugby or basketball, the secret is to create seamless connections between defense and offense so that every new attack emerges in a way that builds momentum. Where this doesn’t happen within a particular team, it will be quickly overwhelmed by any team that has its seamless-communication act together: assuming both team talent levels are pretty similar.


Effective teams that communicate seamlessly set a great model for aspiring full-functioning organizations. Where sales-marketing or media services lead the way, and operations and back-up services manage the product or service response in a synergistic fashion; then the enterprise flows. The goal, drawing from sport vernacular, is to meet the customer’s desires as effectively and efficiently as possible, which can only happen when the supplier’s in-between activities really flow. Where this communication synergy does not occur, the provider falters.


So the reality is this:

» If you have a culture fixated on management, with a small leadership component, the organization becomes highly reactive and misses untold numbers of opportunities.

     » If you have a culture fixated on leadership, with a small management component, the organization becomes overly proactive with no solid base behind it. It therefore doesn’t fulfill many of its opportunities.

     » Clearly a combination of the two is required, where there is a seamless transition between them. This creates solid momentum and flow. We cannot allow stark demarcations to develop between our reactive and proactive functions because we will just be overwhelmed by a more effective competitor, as well as have many dissatisfied customers.


Our challenge is therefore, how do we balance things to create flow? To answer that issue, we have to objectively ask ourselves some pretty probing and objective questions from which the answer will reveal itself, like:

»Do we have a clear picture of the roles of management and leadership within our current organization?

 » Do we have a clear idea of the executive, operational or outreach styles and preferences of the people who manage and lead our product/service producing areas and those who market them?

» How extreme are those styles, such that the two sides cannot effectively communicate with each other and synergize? For example, this writer is aware that traditional operational executives are high Producers but are low on people Diplomacy; whereas marketers are more likely to be high on Diplomacy, but not quite so strong on the Producing side. Where these lead P and D characteristics are somewhat extreme and opposite, it is easy to see why there would be relatively little synergy between both parties.

» Where there is some compatibility, to what degree do we allow the parties  to regularly communicate and under-stand where each other is coming from? Extreme communication factors generate dysfunction between two vital groups. In our dynamic information age, it would be far better if our operational executives were pretty strong Producers closely followed by Diplomacy. On the other hand, our marketers should be pretty strong on Diplomacy closely followed by a Producer orientation. That way , both parties can better minimize any barriers and find positive ways to work with each other. We’ve tended to encourage feuding in the past to stimulate action. Feuding in today’s fast-paced information age just exacerbates dysfunction and a lot of opportunities disappear.

»How do we stay on the right track? Stay focused on the synergy issue, once you have the right players in place. As with any well-functioning sports team, you have to keep rehearsing the right communication synergies until the plays or momentum building actions become second nature.


Using these questions as a framework, you now have to put your conclusions into action. Chances are you will have gulfs within your organization, since most current organizations do; purely because they haven’t understood and addressed the issue. That means there is a certain degree of dysfunction and lost opportunity within your enterprise of today.  You will then need to apply a three phase approach: 1) Understand your  organization’s current disposition; 2) Try to bridge the existing gaps; and 3) Where the gaps are irreconcilable, change the players appropriately over time without rocking your organization too much.

This is known as Momentum Flow and is a natural antidote to organizational bureaucracy. Why not get started today? You won’t regret it.


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