If I asked you to name a risk taker, I bet you could spit out a few names right away. Draw a picture in your mind of what these people are like. Are they wild and easygoing? Are they impulsive or a planner?
I took up rock climbing last year and climbed for the first time at a rock gym. Even while securely connected to a harness and tethered by my friend below, I was still scared to make the climb. I don’t have a fear of heights, or so I thought, but once I started climbing higher I was nearly paralyzed by fear. I pushed on and eventually reached the top. Something magical happens when you push through fear until completion. By making it to the top of that “rock” I was made stronger and instilled with more courage for the next climb. I chose a harder route and got more adventurous. The whole experience helped me to look at risk and adventure in a new light.
A lot can be learned from taking more risk, but what about the uncertainty? If you reach for something and it doesn’t quite work out, what are the implications? It could mean a loss of revenue, respect, customers, or even the whole business. So why do it anyways? Wouldn’t it be better to stay in the safe zone and continue with business as usual? This way nothing is bound to happen. Read that again… nothing is bound to happen.
Stop taking risks?
Without risk, there is no leadership. Leaders have to take risks. It is the only way to ensure the organization and the team doesn’t become stale. It is the only way to move forward. If leaders stopped taking risks there would be no momentum or forward progress.
Risk vs. Reward
When making the decision to make a move and step out, you have to look at the risk versus the reward. This is often verbalized as, “Is the juice worth the squeeze?”. You have to look ahead and decide if the end result is worth the work and the possible failure. This shouldn’t be a complete guessing game, but realize you won’t always have all the answers needed to make an informed decision. Sometimes just reaching out is the best option.
Spontaneous vs. Calculated
Think about those risk takers that came to mind earlier. Are they spontaneous and reach with what seems like no hesitation? Do they spend a considerable amount of time planning?
Each specific situation will warrant the amount of time you have to make an informed decision. Great leaders should always consider the impact the decision will have on the team. The more time available and the easier it will be to take the risk. If possible you should always make an attempt to collect as much information as possible to make an informed decision. A spontaneous decision, while sometimes necessary, only elevates and magnifies the risk.
It is easy to understand why leaders might shy away from risk and new challenges. For most it is being afraid to step out because of the fear of failure. But it is pushing against fear that makes a good leader into a great leader. Accepting new challenges is the only way to stress and then develop those leadership muscles.
Have you ever considered maintaining pace versus taking more risks because of the fear of failure?