As we continue with our discussion on the topic of ‘Leadership,’ the third aspect of understanding the characteristics of leadership, “A leader is a risk-taker.”
Risk taking is an indispensable part of leadership. A French writer Andre Gide said, “You cannot discover new oceans unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.” A leader must prepare to move into the unknown and when they do this there are risks.
Take informed risks. Since risk carries with it the possibility of failure, many people tend to wait for others to take charge or to take those risks. If a leader is not prepared to take risk, then he or she get trapped into thinking about the future only on the basis of the present and even the past, their plans become status quo and ineffective.
Risk-taking decision-making could be a definition of long range planning. A statement about the future is a statement of faith; decision based on the leader’s perception of the future will contain elements of risk, this is not necessarily bad or something to be avoided. Intelligent risk taking is really a test of our faith! Long-range planning helps us make decisions that reduce the risk. Decisions made today have a great impact on what will happen tomorrow but the leader has to make them on the basis of well done research and thought.
When we look at leaders who are making a difference we see that they have the courage to begin while others are waiting for a better time, a safer situation, or assured results. They are willing to take risk because they know that being over cautious and indecisive kill’s opportunity. Leaders understand that if they are to prosper and successful they must use their risk-taking abilities to create an environment that encourages innovation and creativity.
The longer the leader procrastinates, the higher the likehood that the leader won’t do something. Action is important for self-confidence to develop. With every small success the leader will be confident to take bigger risks. Andre Malraux, a French Historian, Novelist and statesman said, “Often the difference between a successful person and a failure is not one has better abilities or ideas, but the courage that one has to bet on one’s ideas, to take a calculated risk and to act.”
Risk must be taken, because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing. In stressing the importance of this aspect of effective leadership, Leo F. Buscaglia said, “The person, who risks nothing, does nothing, is nothing, and becomes nothing. He may avoid suffering and sorrow, but he simply cannot learn and feel and change and grow and love and live.” Chained by his or her certitudes, the leader is a slave; he or she has forfeited freedom.
What has the Bible got to say to us on this subject? A prerequisite for taking risks is courage. Biblical, moral, ethical courage requires intellectual competence (Esther 2:20). Mordecai trained Esther so that when the time came to exercise courage to risk her life and her nation (that special moment), she was able to accomplish what God wanted. It takes courage to push yourself to places that you’ve never been before, to test your limits, to break through barriers.
Let’s look at the reply of Mordecai to Queen Esther, “Do not think that because you are in the King’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but you have come to the kingdom for such an hour as this” (Esther 4:12 -14). Don’t miss your moment! Find out what God is doing and wants you to do and get doing it. Don’t let fear and lack of courage hinder you.
If you want to be a leader, you must dare to take risks, you must learn to fail without ‘dying a thousand deaths’ in the process. As the proverb states, “For though the virtuous man falls seven times, he stands up again; the wicked are the ones who stumble in adversity” (Proverbs 24:16). Moses, Nehemiah, the Apostles, and Jesus, did not stop at the visions and dreams. They took action which demanded that they take many risks.
Innovation brings risks. An effective leader must take risks. It means going from a situation of some security to another, less secure, situation. Every leader must place himself or herself at some risk in order to move forward. But, you ask, “Where is common sense? Doesn’t God want us to count the cost before we do anything? God doesn’t want us to risks, does He? The answer is, “Yes! He does!” That is why He taught us faith!
If a leader does not take risks, he or she doesn’t really accomplish anything in life. One merely exists in a peaceful, stagnant, complacent mode of existence, a shame and dishonour to any child of God. The greatest achievements in the history of the world were leaders who take courageous and carefully calculated risks.
Fear of failure grips those who take themselves too seriously. Thus the attitude of the leader is the determining factor of whether their failure makes or breaks them. The persistence of a leader who encounters failure is one sign of a healthy attitude. Winners don’t quit! Failure becomes devastating and causes a leaders attitude to crash when they quit. To accept failure as final is to be finally a failure.
By Rev. Eric D. Maefonea