Organizations are dynamic and seem to be in a constant state of change. These changes can be developmental (fine tuning), transitional, or transformational as companies work toward the goal of becoming agile organizations. Agile organizations are more adaptive, innovative, and resilient, and they understand that continuous change is part of their internal and external environments. They work to become adaptive, fluid, assertive, and they learn and grow from their past, present, and future. Many companies take the initiative to develop and seize new opportunities created by technological, economic, socio-cultural, governmental, and environmental change forces. If organizations are successful at adapting, taking initiative, and being assertive, can you, as an employee, do the same? Yes, you can.

By examining and understanding our dynamic world, the continuous change, and the situations around us, you can learn how to follow the right initiative at the right time. Understanding your own personal and professional purpose and the roles you play is the place to start. Combining this understanding with your own EQ (emotional intelligence) – which includes self-awareness, social awareness, self-management, and relationship management – you can take more informed action and initiative, and work to become an assertive self-starter. It can all lead to more favorable outcomes and results for you and for your organizations.

What does it mean to take initiative and to be an assertive self-starter?

First, let’s define “initiative.” states, “it is an introductory act or step; a leading action. It is readiness and ability in initiating action; enterprise.” Next, let’s look at how “assertiveness” and “self-starter” are defined. “Assertive is being confidently aggressive or self-assured and positive.” A self-starter is simply, “a person who begins work or undertakes a project on his or her own initiave.” We have all worked with colleagues and professionals who are positive, optimistic, and willing to take the initiative to launch or develop a product or idea. These types of employees always seem to assert themselves at the right time and place. Often, we have seen them gain momentum, help their peers, and accomplish amazing things that lead to favorable outcomes in many areas that drive the business.

In his book, "Seeing the Bigger Picture - Business Acumen to Build Your Company, Credibility, Career and Company," Kevin Cope says that there are five key business drivers: cash, profit, growth, asset utilization, and people. Looking at these drivers, you can see how they all can be impacted favorably by effective management and people. Therefore, it makes sense to assert yourself properly. When you take initiative and act professionally, you help your organization grow and succeed. It all leads to increased results. Try these four steps to take more initiative and become a self-starter:

1. Accept challenges and align to your organization’s leadership, strategies, systems, structure, and culture

Work in the direction of aligning to your organization’s plans in the important areas listed above. Work to make your organization succeed and work to make important contributions that will add value in each important area. Act when the opportunities and situations arise. See and understand what your organization rewards and recognizes.

2. See and shape your vision for career and personal success

Some meaningful advice I heard in my undergraduate program: “Your life is a work of art so paint your picture.” See your vision, the possibilities, goals, plans, and processes you need to set in place to achieve that vision. Reflect on it and act; don’t procrastinate. Keep moving forward toward your vision and goals.

3. Positive self-expectancy – expect to win

Having positive self-expectancy means you are confident that you have all the skills and knowledge necessary to complete a task, initiative, or the work that needs to be done. When self-expectancy is high, you expect to win and have a positive outlook when you take on a new challenge or initiative. Display a “will do” and “can do” attitude. Expectancy is an important component in anything we do.

4. Don’t worry about failure

Michael Jordan once said, “I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life…that is why I succeed.” Here are two more great quotes to remember: First, author Jack Canfield tells us, “Don’t worry about failures, worry about the chances you miss when you don’t even try.” Next, artist and writer Mary Anne Radmacher said, “The jump is so frightening between where I am and where I want to be…because of all I may become I will close my eyes and leap!”

Remember, people are a key business driver for successful change and business. As employees, it is important you remain flexible, adaptable, and dedicated to achieving your organization’s vision, mission, and goals. It is important to perform to the best of your ability and align to your organization’s top leadership, strategies, systems, structure, and organizational culture. Staying focused and executing on your business, career, and personal purpose is critical for your personal and professional success. So with that said, in a dynamic world of change, how can you succeed and continue to provide positive and meaningful inputs? How can you further contribute to your organization’s success as well as further enhance your own personal and professional development? I believe the answer is simple: take initiative and be an assertive self-starter. Going forward, think of yourself as a leader and a person who takes initiative. See yourself being highly motivated, enthusiastic, cooperative, and an assertive self-starter. Give it your very best!


Written by Bill Davis, Assistant Professor at the Forbes School of Business® at Global Campus.


Cope, K. (2012). Seeing the Bigger Picture - Business Acumen to Build Your Company, Credibility, Career and Company. Austin, Texas. Greenleaf Book Group

Davis, B. (Oct, 2015). Plan your Work and Work Your Plan. Ashford University Forward Thinking Blog. Retrieved from /blog

Davis, B. & Sadeghinejad, A. (Dec 2015). The 3 E System, How Expectancy, Experience and Education Can Advance your Career. Institute of Certified Professional Managers (ICPM) Management Blog. Retrieved from

Davis, B. & Swanson, D. (Jan 2016). Planning and Alignment Can Advance your Career Success. Institute of Certified Professional Managers (ICPM) Management Blog. Retrieved from (n.d.). Retrieved from

Leybovich, I. (2011). Secrets to Being a Self- Starter. Industry News, Retrieved from starter

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