I'm considered a very "safe" person. I tend to be very risk averse and only take a chance on something when I've analyzed and calculated it to the extent that it is no longer a risk.
It's a magical place to be—full of worry, anxiousness and procrastination. You should really consider vacationing there sometime.
As a leader, we are always one decision away from total failure. Or at least that's the way I feel most of the time. This mindset causes me to enjoy the status quo more than I should and rebel against those that try anything new or risky. But, if any leader is to be successful, he/she must be willing to take some risks.
Risks lead to innovation. Risks lead to higher plateaus of success. Risks lead to longevity as a leader.
Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not advocating reckless risk-taking. But, I am saying that leaders must be willing to take risks ... and that can be difficult for many of us. Because risks often go against our own conscious and comfort zone and can open us up to critique and failure.
Here are 5 risks that I believe every leader should take:
1. Stand up for what you believe in. This can be very easy for some people, but not for everyone. I am especially thinking about times when it seems that all the naysayers are shouting "NAY" as loud as they can. It is easier to go with the flow or to just continue doing what we've always done. But, I believe that this risk leads you and the team you lead into new heights of envisioning what could be ... versus what is or what has always been.
2. Stand up for someone who can't do it on their own. There are people all around you who "don't have a voice." The people who aren't decision makers. The people who only speak up when they have to. The people who don't have the necessary information to even know that something is about to impact what they do. I have worked on teams where there was no minority representation, yet decisions that were being made had a direct impact on them. So, to speak up and give a voice to a person or a group of people is something that every leader should take a risk on. It's risky because you may be a lone voice. It's risky because you may not fully know what needs to be said and why. It's risky because it can be easily misunderstood.
3. Give someone a second chance. When someone on the team doesn't follow through, it's easy to give up on them instantly. When someone fails, it's easy to find someone else to do it. When someone doesn't interview well, it's easy to not give them a second interview. I think that giving people a second chance, as difficult as it can be, has the potential for the greatest upside. Learning from mistakes can be the greatest teacher, but if we don't give those that we lead the opportunity to learn and do differently, we're robbing them of the chance to get better and grow.
4. Show emotion. Leaders are often taught that your team should never see you sweat. You're supposed to always have it together and know the right answers. I definitely think there are times for this—and it may even be that this should be true a majority of the time. However, I am submitting to you that your team should also see you as human ... with human emotions. If you are concerned about something, show it. If you are tearing up about something that touched you, show it. If you are nervous about something, show it. Be calculated, but show it. As I've said before, nothing leads to trust in a team like vulnerability—and emotions are key to vulnerability.
5. Get to know your team and have fun with them. I've been told that our teams should be kept at a distance. What's going on in their personal lives doesn't matter and it shouldn't impact their work. This couldn't be further from the truth. Getting to know your team will help you lead them better. Knowing their likes, dislikes, personality style, etc. will help you know how to reward, motivate, and discipline them. Getting to know things about their family will open up opportunities for you to talk with them on a personal level that will be meaningful to them. And, when you know your team, you can have fun with them ... in a way that they'll enjoy.
I believe that these are risks that, if taken, will help you become a better leader. There may be some times when you take these risks and fail ... maybe even miserably. But, if you never take them, you'll never know. And, I think that these risks will more often lead to success than failure.
Do you consider yourself a risk taker? Are these risks that you take? Comment below and let me know what risk you're going to take this week.
Tim Parsons is currently the executive pastor at First Assembly Community Ministries in Lafayette, Indiana. Tim is also a gifted teacher, speaker, and consultant. You can check out his blog on leadership at and follow him on Twitter.
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