CEO Coaching: Balancing Reaction and Anticipation

How was your day? If it was “average,” you probably put out some fires, fielded questions, responded to requests, and dealt with a few surprises. All necessary requirements of senior leadership.

But did you also think about the future, develop plans, proactively eliminate some risks, and identify growth opportunities for the business, your people, and yourself?

Leaders must be proactive and reactive. No one lives solely in the future. Stuff happens that we must deal with. However, if you adopt a reactive mindset and a firefighter persona, you’re a caretaker, not a leader.

Many years ago, I encountered a business owner who had a microphone on his desk and a loudspeaker in the office so he could instantly call meetings to react to something. Anything. A random thought that raced through his undisciplined mind. Smart guy but enamored with firefighting and reacting.

Effective leaders may spend a lot of time reacting, but they also schedule time for proactive activity. The most effective CEOs I’ve worked with fight to carve out time for thinking about the future and moving ahead, not treading water. They know professional development doesn’t pay off tomorrow, but over the coming years. They know they cannot win a fight by only counterpunching. They know random activity isn’t good enough to build the top or bottom line.

If you look at your calendar for the past several weeks or months (you use a calendar, don’t you?), do you see much proactive activity, or is it mostly empty so you can fight all those fires? If you’re just reactively winging it, you’ll eventually fight your last fire and retire as a caretaker, not a leader.

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