Estimated Lesson Time: 3 minutes
As a youngster, I must admit that my taking-out-garbage initiative left a lot to be desired. No matter how full the garbage was, I would force whatever I had to dispose of in the trash container and make it fit. I had a similar policy for pretending I did not see the dog poop on the carpet. Ultimately, I had to take out the garbage and clean up the poop anyway, but I had to be told (or yelled at) to do it. In retrospect, I should have accepted my fate as the household garbageman/poop picker-upper and taken the initiative to take out the garbage when full and pick up the dog poop when present. But why deprive my parents of the joys of parenthood?
Initiative, a characteristic that is present in virtually every successful individual, is defined as the power or ability to begin or to follow through energetically with a plan or task: enterprise and determination. The prefix “init” means to begin. While initiative does not necessarily mean having to follow through, those with initiative either do follow through themselves or see to it that the task is properly delegated. Perhaps the most important part of this definition is the word “energetically.” Taking the initiative is not about mumbling “Yeah... I guess I’ll do it”; it is about accepting the plan or task with commitment.
Initiative (or personal initiative) is the characteristic that people possess that allows things to get done. Leaders must have initiative. Without it, leaders are simply workers in leadership positions. Those who demonstrate initiative also demonstrate a leadership quality—perhaps the greatest leadership quality that gets one noticed.
Personal initiative is not something you should want to possess just to get noticed, however. Personal initiative is the driving force that allows you to get things done in your own life. It is the characteristic that distinguishes a “someday I’ll” person from a “been there, done that” person. People with personal initiative get things done.
Now that you can see how taking initiative can benefit you both personally and professionally, here are some suggestions for how you can take the initiative more often.
- Force it. Initiative requires energy, not necessarily passion or desire. You can take the initiative when the need arises simply because you know it is the best course of action to take toward your success.
- Volunteer. Initiative is, after all, a form of volunteering. Without spreading yourself too thin, seek responsibilities—energetically.
- Don’t wait until you are asked to do something. If you know something needs to be done, and it is something that you need to do or should do, then do it—or at least take responsibility for it and add it to your “to do” list. As an adult, I personally find it embarrassing to ask another adult to do something they should be doing, and conversely, being asked by another to do something I should be doing.
People with initiative get things done in both their personal and professional lives. Organizations that have leaders with initiative are organizations that are committed to progress. Achievements begin with action and action is a result of initiative. Commit to being the person who takes the initiative and become a better leader and a more productive person.
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Some discussion questions (some may not apply to this lesson):
- Have you implemented this idea in your life? How has it been working for you?
- Do you have any interesting stories related to this lesson? Do tell!
- What do you admire most about this person? (success biography days)