Initiators and processors are two different skill sets. You’re usually one more than the other. In every industry and every organization, there are initiating roles and there are processing roles. Which are you?
Initiators are focused on creating something new and are comfortable with both change and ambiguity. They motivate others to bring their best to execute on the strategy.
Processors, on the other hand, are more about hammering out the details to get the job done. They value data, prefer routine and manage risk.
You’ll find both in leadership, but the best leaders are good initiators. It’s an essential trait of top leadership. Leaders who don’t have it need to recognize and augment it. I have watched some of the best processors become effective leaders. When they do, they focus on seeing the bigger picture, taking responsibility and holding others accountable.
From the outside, it can seem easy to be an initiator. They think of the ideas and the processors implement them and make them work. But being a good initiator (leader) is more than just thinking of a new idea. It involves vision and effective execution on strategy.
Good initiators need to …
- Be strategic first.
This is a skill that few people actually have. Good initiators see the big picture and are focused on bringing forward new thinking, not simply improving something that someone else started. They come up with fresh — and often bold — ideas that will help achieve an organization’s key goals. They also determine the action steps needed and mobilize resources to execute.
- Take risks.
Good initiators have to be willing – and ready – to fail because they will. This may be one of the hardest skills to exercise. There will be times when they will boldly proclaim a new idea and outline a plan and it doesn’t work. Initiators are not in the business of fixing things. They are focused on starting, eliminating or blowing up something to start over. Those decisions are riskier and harder to make, but initiators trust their judgment (and use it often).
- Keep looking around corners.
Initiators are in-tune with what’s happening in their industry and their market. They are the people that others look to for information. They stay close to their customer so they can see opportunities and have the information they need to initiate relevant and innovative plans. They are focused on the future and what’s next.
- See what others don’t.
Good initiators hear what isn’t said and uncover opportunities that others don’t see. They pay close attention to systems and look for gaps or waste in current processes or plans. They don’t rest on what’s always been done. They’re constantly gaining intel to help drive an organization forward and they create opportunities to do more.
Those who start something typically get more credit than those who implement it. That can be hard when you’re a processor. Good initiators don’t worry about who gets the credit and often are the first to redistribute the credit to the processors. This is where knowing your strengths and augmenting your weaknesses comes into play.
If you aren’t a natural initiator, you can make the transition. Try it some time. You’ll probably be good at it and you might even surprise yourself.