Proactivity Endnotes

About these endnotes

This is where we provide references and in-depth information about everything in the Proactivity playbook.


We honor and thank the scientists whose research inspired this Playbook. Any errors or omissions are ours.

How we define this strength

Proactive people take the initiative to affect change, as compared to passive people who go with the flow. They look for opportunity and act on it (Bateman & Crant, 1993). In relation to the Big Five personality traits, proactivity is most strongly correlated with extraversion and openness, but is a distinct construct (Thomas, Whitman, & Viswesvaran, 2010).

Never doubt

Commonly attributed to anthropologist Margaret Mead as something she said verbally, since it was not in her published works and the first recorded citation occurred after her death. Used with permission.

Wait for direction from others to initiate change

One defining element of proactive people is their forward-looking nature: they don’t sit back and react to a situation, but anticipate opportunities and problems, and make plans to deal with them (Grant & Ashford, 2008).

A trait you can grow

Like many personality traits, a proactive mindset can be something you’re “born” with, but it’s also something that can be “made,” and there are ways to increase it (Campos, Frese, Goldstein, Iacovone, Johnson, McKenzie, & Mensmann, 2017).

One of the qualities that distinguished the greatest American presidents from their peers

Being a charismatic leader may be enough to make a good president, but it’s not enough to make a great one. A magnetic personality will get people to follow you. To achieve meaningful goals, you also have to overcome difficult circumstances and persevere until you succeed (Deluga, 1998).


Bateman, T. S., & Crant, J. M. (1993). The proactive component of organizational behavior. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 14(2), 103–118.

Campos, F., Frese, M., Goldstein, M., Iacovone, L., Johnson, H. C., McKenzie, D., & Mensmann, M. (2017). Teaching personal initiative beats traditional training in boosting small business in West Africa. Science, 357(6357), 1287-1290.

Deluga, R. J. (1998). American presidential proactivity, charismatic leadership, and rated performance, Leadership Quarterly, 9(3), 265-291.

Grant, A. M., & Ashford, S. J. (2008). The dynamics of proactivity at work. Research in Organizational Behavior, 28(2008), 3-34.

Thomas, J. P., Whitman, D. S., & Viswesvaran, C. (2010). Employee proactivity in organizations: A comparative meta‐analysis of emergent proactive constructs. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 83(2), 275-300.