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The Initiate Practice of Leadership: Your Role in Jump-Starting Creativity

Jason Diamond Arnold

December 14, 2018

“Between the idea and the reality, between the motion and the act; falls the shadow.”

-T.S. Elliot

If someone asked you what your goals are for 2019, would you be able to list off a few or would you need time to actually sit down and set some goals? There are different types of goals you can set as an individual, with your team, or for your organization. Goals don’t have to be long-term only; you can have daily, weekly, agile bi-weekly, monthly, or quarterly goals.

Whether your goals are short-term or long-term, taking time to set and initiate them is the first step to achieving them, and will help you perform at a higher level, both professionally and personally. When it comes to practicing effective leadership, setting and initiating good goals is essential. An effective leadership plan consists of creating goals and collaborating with others to achieve them.

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Creative Tension and Setting Goals

Creative tension is a powerful concept that inspires productive human behavior. The point of allowing for creative tension is to bring your current reality closer to achieving your goal. Humans have a natural tendency to seek resolutions, and you can expedite the process by prompting action when there is tension.

Think of a goal you have right now. It could be anything, from what you want to accomplish by the end of the day or something you want to achieve in a year. Where are you right now in relation to the goal? What’s your energy level to pursue the goal right now? How are you feeling about your ability and skills to achieve the goal? Considering the answers to these questions helps you to assess your current reality, where you are at this moment in time, relative to the goal. Creative tension is generated when you have a clear idea of your future, then compare it to your current reality.

Initiate the Leadership Plan

To achieve leadership genius in any context, you must first initiate the idea or objective you’re trying to achieve. Initiating creativity and goals, in the workplace or life in general, makes you a better leader. To grow professionally, you need to have something you’re striving towards. You cannot let your current reality remain stagnant for too long because you will miss out on movement and never experience progress and growth.

“You initiate by establishing guidelines and facilitating the goals, expectations, ground rules, operating guidelines, and steps for implementation that embody, enable, foster, and sustain a work-related vision.”

- Dr. Drea Zigarmi in “Achieve Leadership Genius”

To ensure you’re always moving forward, you have to continually assess your current reality towards the goal, and never let go of the new realities you experience as you pursue the goal. Whether it is setting your own goals or goals for your organization, you are acknowledging there is a paradox between the idea and the reality of the objective you are pursuing.

No matter what context, the focus of initiating should be on capturing dreams and turning them into reality.

Initiating in the Self-Context

No matter what context, the focus of initiating should be on pursuing dreams and turning them into reality. Your own dreams, those of a direct report, a team, the organization, or an alliance you are collaborating with, are all opportunities to initiate goals. Taking action and creating a personal performance plan opens up future opportunities for growth.

Things to consider in a personal performance plan are your Key Responsibility Areas (KRAs), SMART goals, and action steps for their achievement. This context aligns with your work-related vision and the organization’s expectations of you in your role. Make sure you have clear expectations and outcomes and don’t be afraid to be vulnerable and honest with yourself and those you collaborate with. Don’t just set goals to have goals, set them to pursue important and meaningful objectives.

Initiating in the One-to-One Context

Leadership in the One-to-One context ensures everyone on the team has what they need to satisfy their work-related goals and vision while aligned with the organization's goals and vision. By helping individuals develop a plan to achieve their goals, you are initiating by establishing performance objectives. This also includes key responsibility areas, SMART goals and action steps.

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Initiating general and specific goals in the workplace is beneficial to every employee. Start by identifying 3 to 5 key responsibilities for each role, move on to setting goals to help fulfill each of those roles and finally generate tasks to help achieve the goals. In doing this, you will be on your way to developing and growing your direct report toward meaningful business objectives while engaging their psychological needs.

Initiating in the Team Context

This context focuses on who is leading the team and who is on the team. To align the team vision, it is important to consider guidelines, outcomes, norms, ground rules, roles and responsibilities. This all works to build team character. Team leaders initiate in this context by establishing a high-impact team character.

Once a team charter is established, it can generate transparency to those on the team or even outside of the organization. By sharing this vision, it increases credibility and the chances of being successful and achieving aligned business outcomes. This is successful when aligned with the sponsor’s vision for the team, which includes team member-generated vision, goals and operating principles.

Initiating in the Organizational Context

This context is aligned with the organizational vision. In this context, leaders initiate performance by outlining a strategy and initiatives with key results for achievement. Often times, when problems arise in during the pursuit of business strategy, they are often ignored instead of being resolved. It is important to prioritize such problems and work to solve them through an organized and collaborative process.

Engaging in a healthy organizational problem-solving process s not only generates solutions but also leads to opportunities that fulfill the organization’s vision. By addressing problems head-on, you are making sure the organization is able to reach the next level of organizational excellence. An executive leader who can identify problems, and collaborate with teams and individuals throughout the organization to solve critical business problems, is a leader who will take the organization to the next level.

Initiating in the Alliance Context

Initiating creativity and setting goals, in the workplace or life in general, makes you a better leader.

This context is all about a common vision, purpose and values between to entities. An alliance is a special entity — the coming together of potentially disparate organizations to form a strategic relationship. An alliance leadership team is a group of people both from alliance member organizations. When making decisions on behalf of the organization, it is essential to reflect the values of the other members.


Initiating in the alliance context is necessary for the alliance to effectively function. Having specific and measurable goals makes it easier to be able to deal with obstacles that may arise during the pursuit of common business objectives. Start by establishing a charter that outlines the alliance’s major goals and operating principles for fulfilling the alliance’s big idea, and move on to creating the visions of the partners in the alliance. This way, you are prepared for anything and are ready to constantly moving towards the shared goal.

Setting goals shouldn’t be something you have to do, but rather something that enlightens and excites you, your team, and your organization. Initiate excellence by setting some short-term, agile goals and work your way up to larger, long-term goals. In doing this, you will be on your way to accomplishing initiating excellence throughout the organization while meeting the needs of customers. When leaders at every level of an organization take the time to plan for and initiate goals, the bring light and productivity to the shadows that lie between the idea and the reality of the business objectives you’re pursuing.

Want to read about the other contexts of leadership? Explore the other contextual leadership roles in Dr. Drea Zigarmi’s book, Achieve Leadership Genius.

Here are the other contexts of leadership discussed in the book! Check them out!