Six Definitions of Initiative

I constantly find myself coming back to a very simple but actionable framework when coaching team members about initiative and proactivity.

There are six common levels of initiative:

  1. Wait until told (lowest initiative)
  2. Ask what to do
  3. Recommend, then take aligned action
  4. Act, but advise at once
  5. Act on own, then routinely report
  6. Do it ahead of time because it will need to be done; people realize it later when it’s happening (highest initiative)

Simple, right? There is one caveat, though. It’s important not to jump straight to the highest level(s). You should only operate at the higher levels when trust with your team or lead is built and you’re clear on the company or team’s strategic direction. Moving too quickly without these foundations can make actions seem uncoordinated or disruptive.

So, take a moment to evaluate where you currently stand within these levels — potentially within your team, project, or your relationship with your lead — and think about the steps you can take to move towards greater initiative.

Source: Nat Emodi and Dan Romero on Farcaster