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How to Spot Creative vs. Reactive Leadership

November 28, 2022
By: Patrick Bosworth in the Leadership Development category.

Not all leaders are created equal, and the same can be said for their leadership styles. To be a great leader, you must first identify your own leadership style. Once you know what kind of leader you are, you can work on becoming effective at it.

Some people are naturally more creative and others more reactive in the way they approach work, problems, or life in general. This can lead to some interesting personality and leadership clashes. Creative leaders have a tendency to be more independent and less concerned with following processes than their reactive counterparts, who tend to follow rules more closely and may prefer structure to creativity. Creative leaders tend to take risks and try new things, whereas reactive leaders tend to follow rules and stick with tried-and-true methods.


Creative leaders focus on how things change

The most important difference between creative and reactive leadership is that creative leaders are focused on the future, while reactive leaders are focused on the present. Creative leaders look to create new solutions and opportunities, while reactive leaders look to solve problems in the here and now. A creative leader is always looking for new ideas and ways to improve, and they’re open to learning and growing. Creative leaders are able to think outside the box. Creative leaders often see things differently from others, and they’re willing to take risks in order to achieve success.

Common traits of a creative leader include:

  • Visionary
  • Intuitive
  • Flexible
  • Inspiring


Reactive leaders are concerned with maintaining the status quo

Between the dichotomy of leadership lies a variation called reactive leadership. In terms of business, reactive leaders believe that management is about keeping everything as it is, and if anything changes, to change it back to the way it was. Reactive leaders respond to situations as they occur instead of trying to anticipate them. Reacting is usually faster than thinking about what might happen, so reactive leaders often get things done quickly.

Reactive leaders are usually very cautious and hesitant to take risks because they do not like to make mistakes or fail. Reactive leaders may also be perfectionists who want everything done right the first time around, so they have high expectations of their employees and hold them accountable for their actions.


Both types of leaders can be effective in different situations

Creative leadership and reactive leadership can both be useful, depending on the situation. Reactive leadership can help us solve problems we have encountered before, while creative leadership helps us deal with emergencies that arise unexpectedly.

Creative leaders have a vision for their company or organization — they know where they want to go and how they plan to get there. They think outside the box and drive progress by coming up with innovative solutions to problems.

Reactive leaders are reactionary, which means they respond to situations as they arise rather than proactively planning for them. These leaders are often more focused on tasks than people, and they don’t always have a clear idea of where they want their teams or organizations to go in the future.


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