Staying Creative for Maximum Leadership Effectiveness

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“I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.”

Stephen Covey

Have you ever been reading an email and gotten triggered by what someone said, or even how they worded something, and then fallen into the reactivity trap?

Me, too. In fact, even the most conscious and intentional leaders are susceptible to falling into old reactive patterns sometimes. So, how does one stay creative, and, more importantly, if a person does fall into the reactivity trap (asking for a friend, of course), how can they recover?

Let’s do a quick refresh on what we mean by reactive and creative. The model is based on the Stages of Adult Development and comes from The Leadership Circle’s research and assessment.

Reactive Leaders are focused on playing to not lose or on protecting themselves from problems. They exhibit reactivity by complying with others, protecting themselves, or being controlling. Self-worth is determined by external factors.

Creative Leaders are focused on their vision and creating outcomes that matter. They play to win, and they exhibit creative leadership competencies by: relating to others, self-awareness, authenticity, systems awareness, and achieving results. Self-worth is driven by internal factors.

Reactive behaviors and patterns are triggered by unexamined assumptions and beliefs. These are the stories that once kept us safe, but they may be getting in our way now. Some examples of unexamined assumptions are:

  • Loyalty, harmony, and going along to get along protect me from disapproval
  • I am worthwhile because of my superior capability or insight
  • The world is made up of winners and losers

When we operate from a place of reactivity, we are at risk for damaging relationships, breaking trust, and reducing our leadership effectiveness in a big way. So, how can we move into a more creative way of operating that energizes us AND helps us avoid getting caught in the reactive trap?

Strategies for Staying Creative

  • Examine your assumptions. How? When you feel emotionally triggered, ask yourself, “What is at risk for me in this situation?” If you keep asking this question, you will eventually uncover the deep internal assumptions that drive your reactivity.
  • Check your stories vs. the facts when feeling reactive about a situation. What are you making the situation mean? Are you personalizing the situation?
  • Take care of yourself. Self-regulation is a limited resource, so prioritize good sleep, stay well fed and hydrated, and make room for play and exercise.

Even the most creative leaders can find themselves being reactive sometimes. How can we recover from a less-than-effective leadership moment, after we’ve gone reactive?

Strategies for Recovering from a Reactive Moment

  • Reflect on what happened. Explore the assumptions and events that triggered you, so that you can learn from them.
  • Circle back and “press a reset” with the person who experienced your reactive moment. Try this: “I apologize for my reactive behavior yesterday. If I had it to do over again, I would approach it this way.”
  • Show yourself some compassion. Even the most conscious leaders can get triggered. Shame and self-criticism will not help you engage your creative leadership behaviors.
  • Think about the results and relationships you would like to create. Address each situation with a mindset of moving towards what you want vs. what you don’t want.

At pLink, what we know for sure is that conscious leadership is a lifelong journey, and we must continue to explore our beliefs, our stories, and our patterns to level up our effectiveness. Each time we fall back into reactive patterns, we are gifted an opportunity to learn, grow, and become a more effective leader.

Alexis Robin

Alexis Robin is the CXO of pLink Leadership. A sought-after speaker on the topics of brave leadership, team synergy, and positive communication, Alexis works globally, coaching leaders at the individual, team, and organizational level. She lives in Truckee, CA, with her husband and teenaged twins.