Seth Godin: Who reacts, responds, or initiates?

In his 2008 book Tribes, Seth Godin identifies three things that organizations and individuals do: React, respond, and initiate.

Reacting to external events is “the easiest thing.”  It is “intuitive and instinctive and usually dangerous.”  Too many politicians and managers merely react to developments thrust upon them, and often badly.

Responding is “the second easiest thing.”  Responding to “external stimuli with thoughtful action” is “a much better alternative” to simply reacting. A response requires deliberation and planning.

Initiating is by far the most challenging of the three, but it is “what leaders do.”  They see a void or need and act upon it, thereby causing “events that others have to react to.”  They seize and create the agenda. They are the true change agents.

Simple but insightful

Godin captures, in one neat little commentary, the differences among so many organizations and managers.  Obviously circumstances may dictate when an entity or individual reacts, responds, or initiates. But think of your own world, whether it be a business, a community group, a school, or some other entity.  Who reacts?  Who responds?  Who initiates?  I’ll bet the answers to those questions reveal who are the change agents in that realm, hopefully leading society in positive directions.


Seth Godin’s website and accompanying blog (links here) offer an abundance of ideas and free materials for individuals and organizations.

2 responses

  1. Very interesting, I’ve never thought about it in those terms. But when I look at the way which individuals/organizations respond, it does seem to fall into one of those three categories.

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