Closed Circuit

By Sarah P.

With the onset of COVID-19, strong leadership skills have never been more in demand; organizations around the world require agile responses to evolving short- and long-term needs.  The Leadership Development Program aims to equip WAPA with competencies that support such needs. On Oct. 6-7, the LDP hosted a virtual Mini Leadership Summit centered around the book Mastering Leadership by Robert Anderson and William Adams.

More than 200 of WAPA’s team leads, supervisors and managers heard from speakers from The Leadership Circle, as well as Sacramento Municipal Utilities District CEO Paul Lau, motivational speaker Anita “AC” Clinton of Be Great Global, Equal Employment Manager Charles Montañez and Leadership Development Program Managers Brittanie Paquette and Troy Steadman. Administrator and CEO Tracey LeBeau provided opening remarks.

The Mini Summit focused on leading in a hybrid world and the need to incorporate Mastering Leadership principles called Creative and Reactive Leadership, also known as Self-Authored and Other-Authored Leadership. 

Adams categorizes Reactive Leaders as other-authored, which is typically a more internal view of leadership. Reactive Leaders aim to protect themselves from criticism instead of taking risks to engage productively with an organization’s mission and vision. Adams describes them as capable of getting good results, but their approach impacts leadership effectiveness by emphasizing cautionary measures instead of insightful risk assessment and acceptance.

Imagine the announcement of lockdowns and employers’ need to provide rapid responses in March 2020, which was something we had never seen before. How difficult might it be to maintain a reactive leadership mindset when new policies create confusion, anger and fear, and you can’t answer your employees’ questions? How can a leader reprogram their instinctual response for self-preservation?  

Reactive Leadership may have individuals thinking, “I can’t predict the reactions of my peers if I propose this route, and I have another crisis to deal with elsewhere, so I won’t try.” 

Mini Summit attendees were asked to consider situations in which they’ve employed reactive strategies and discuss them with their peers to better understand what kinds of situations might enable this mindset, which is half the battle.

Learning Creative Leadership was the other half. Anderson and Adams have identified five categories that define Creative Leadership, which concentrate on the successful management of people and processes: achieving, systems awareness, authenticity, self-awareness and relating.  

Achieving is the ability to create a vision, the pathway to success and the ability to get results. A leader who is “systems aware” can understand and navigate a complicated organization system and leverage its design to achieve higher performance standards. Authentic leaders act with integrity and boldly share opinions, even when risky. Self-awareness is the ability to understand one’s own strengths and weaknesses. Relating refers to the ability to build, collaborate with and develop teams.

Creative Leadership has individuals thinking, “This is out of my comfort zone, but I can do this and, as a result, develop my identified weaknesses.” Or, “I have a lot on my plate. I’ll ask a peer who is strong in this subject matter for assistance with this project.”  

These individuals are key contributors to groups, highly adaptable and unafraid to think outside the box and take risks that produce results and move an organization forward.

The difference between the two is that, in a Reactive Leadership, the techniques and skills we employ as leaders have us moving from one crisis to another mindset, seeking equilibrium between reality and beliefs, with nothing changing in between. A Creative Leadership mindset has us seeking and pursuing an overall vision, adapting and evolving from those beliefs as they relate to our reality.

Anyone can self-reflect on their leadership mindset at any level of the organization by identifying leadership qualities witnessed from the best leaders one has encountered personally, why those qualities were important and why they may be important to their respective teams.  

Chief Diversity Officer of The Leadership Circle Aaronde Creighton led Mini Summit attendees through Creative Leadership breakout sessions on these exact topics. All employees are encouraged to explore these individually or with fellow colleagues; they can be great exercises for anyone to try. 

Making the transition from a Reactive to a Creative Leadership mindset explores the questions, “What type of leader does my organization need me to be right now?” and “What will it take for me to become that leader?”  

Attendees worked to identify individual paths to success for themselves and WAPA by considering these questions. Oftentimes this journey pulls individuals from acting as a leader worried about others’ expectations and in constant response mode – Reactive – to a leader with a confident, strategic and authentic attitude – Creative.  

The Mini Summit is just one example of the resources WAPA offers to foster a collaborative and productive workplace with effective leaders. The LDP is committed to trainings that are instantly transferrable to WAPA’s organizational needs by providing additional monthly webinars and other programs on applicable leadership competencies.  

Note: Pritchett is a leadership development specialist.

Last modified on March 5th, 2024