The “Actor” vs. the “Reactor”

I hope that you enjoyed building your “servant leader” muscle this past week.

As part three of our five-part weekly series we are going to look at the roles of “Actor” vs. “Reactor.”

In studying highly effective leaders, I have found that they make decisions based upon, and aligned with, a clear intention and not in reaction to emotions. This does not mean that they do not have emotions, but rather that they have developed the emotional maturity that it takes to refrain from “reacting” to them.

Great leaders are often extremely compassionate and empathetic which makes them exceptionally likable. They have simply mastered the art of self-restraint.

When we talk about making decisions aligned with an intention, we are not simply talking about a high level or “global” vision. It is important that as a leader we understand intentions or visions related to every aspect of the business including:

  • How to engage and treat employees

  • How to engage and treat customers

  • How to navigate when the rails are off the track

  • Level of determination and commitment

As part of their emotional maturity they recognize and understand their own personal “triggers.” They are keenly aware of the events or even individuals that send them reeling.

Triggers can result from several things including, fear, experience, and habitual behavior. I once heard it said that “if it is hysterical, it is historical!” I certainly find that to be very true in my own life.

In the moment, it may be difficult to have the mindfulness to stop to investigate why you feel upset or angry, so it makes sense to develop strategies for immediately responding to these events in an effective and non-harmful manner. Something as simple as taking a quick walk down the hall, call an objective person, write down everything you would like to say.

Writing can be a very powerful tool for releasing strong reactive energy.  Do not send your written document. This is simply an exercise which will allow you to release the energy that is welling up. Once released in an appropriate, non-harmful manner you are better able to determine next steps.

After the event has passed, take some time to ask yourself what inside of you was triggered?  If the tendency is to blame someone else, keep digging deeper. There is more to be discovered.

By responding instead of reacting, great leaders are better able to make sound, valuable decisions which benefit the organization, and everyone associated.

This week lets work on developing strategies for dealing with triggers. Make a list of 3 or 4 things you can do to release the energy ignited by the trigger. Notice when, how often, and why you get triggered. What are you telling yourself?


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