Researchers define initiative as work behaviour that is defined by one’s decision to start doing something by themselves, with a self-starting proactive approach, and perseverance in overcoming obstacles in the pursuit of a goal. When you demonstrate initiative, you go above and beyond what is expected of you; you learn more than just what you NEED to know; you persevere when things become rough; and you recognise and seize possibilities that others overlook. At work, you take action rather than react.
Think of it in terms of an anecdote. Your boss is not at work, and there are matters which need to be attended to urgently. Unsupervised, and without a leader to instruct them and catch them up with the details of the project that is being worked upon, the team’s productivity is hampered. In this case, if you were to take up and fill in for the boss for the day, boosting the team’s morale, productivity and quality of work, you would earn a lot of goodwill in your company. In the future, this goodwill will help you remain in your seniors’ mind when they are considering employees for promotions, raises and more responsibilities. It also increases your visibility, not just within your own workplace, but also when other companies are looking out for new employees to hire. Also, it makes for pretty good content on your work resume.
In professional spaces today, a sense of taking initiative is becoming considerably more and more vital by the day. Employees that can think fast, stay working on their feet and take quick and swift action without waiting for instructions from someone who is their senior are always in high demand. At the end of the day, it is this kind of adaptability and bravery that drives teams and businesses to find new solutions and, come up with new ideas and outperform their competitors.
Initiative, a sense of taking it, is a skill that can be developed. While some people have an inherent sense of stepping forward and taking up leadership positions, initiative is something you can work on even if it is not your natural disposition. You can increase your potential to take initiative in the following ways-
1. Figure out a concrete strategy- Those who are following a set path and have managed to figure out a career plan in the long term, have been found to be more likely to take initiative, according to research. Working Professionals who have a strong idea of what they want, and have a fixed aim in life are significantly more inclined to take initiative, both at work and in their personal life, especially when they are aware that taking initiative a particular matter will help them advance their career or achieve their goal. Once you’ve decided what your aim is and what you have set out to accomplish, combine your professional and personal objectives to give yourself something to strive for. Setting defined personal goals and working in their direction consistently is the key to establishing a sense of initiative in your personal life.
2. Work on having some faith in yourself- Showing initiative can take guts and a strong sense of confidence in yourself, especially if you are afraid that others will disapprove of your actions or proposals. Set tiny targets, for example, it will help you get some fast wins. You should also try to work on things that you would generally be afraid to do. This will help you improve your self-confidence, and it will also arm you with the bravery to take on greater, riskier, and potentially more important activities in the future.
3. Look out for new opportunities- It is an important factor into your potential to take initiative that you always keep your eyes peeled and remain on the lookout for new opportunities, improvements and better incentives. People who take initiative frequently manage to do it by seeking and acting on chances that the people that they work with or the people that they work under might have missed. They are always interested in learning more about the company that they work in and how its operations work, and they always keep their minds open to new ideas, ways to do things, and possibilities to improve functioning.
It is understandable that the praise you get after taking initiative and seeing a project to success is very enjoyable, and increases confidence, morale and the will to give more of yourself to your work and how it might get to someone’s head. This is also the reason why many people get sort of addicted to the idea of taking initiative and run to be at the forefront of all projects that are being undertaken. Don’t do that. While it is good to know when to step forward, it is also important to know when to take a step back. Figure out a way to strike a balance between the situations where you take initiative, and situations where you let go.
This will prevent you from taking too much on to your plate and having to give up afterwards, leading to a decline in peoples’ belief in you and your legitimacy and reliability. This will also prevent you from stressing yourself out too much or putting too much pressure on yourself, causing a situation where you find yourself feeling like you have burned yourself out by overworking yourself. Taking initiative might be considered to be improper in some settings, and people who go overboard and end up creating a lot of extra work for others stand a risk to not just irritate, but also overburden them, destroying the point of having taken initiative to do something in the first place.
In some situations, it may also be considered as someone undermining authority, which might work against them when said authority is tasked with making decisions regarding employee incentives and higher positions. You may also come off as smug and arrogant, which is not a good look in any industry, especially if it is one where networking and making connections has much to do with your success and how much work comes your way in the industry.