Risk It All or Not At All?
What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken?
I’ve never considered myself much of a risk-taker. I tend to be too calculated, too strategic, too thoughtful. However I’m beginning to rethink that. I think I tend to confuse spontaneity with risk-taking. In fact, I would venture to bet that we all have a tendency to make this assumption. We think that the out-going, gregarious, fly-by-the-seat-of-their-pants, spontaneous types are the risk-takers. But I think that’s a limited perspective. While I do believe the spontaneous types can be risk-takers, I also think that we deliberate, calculated types can be big risk-takers as well. The process just may be a bit different. Ultimately, whether you’re deliberate or spontaneous, good risk-taking comes down to how you approach the process. Healthy risk-takers are the people who turn organizations around, rebuild communities and change the world. Unhealthy risk-takers often create a lot of hype, but I wonder if they really influence change or just create messes?
As I’ve reflected on my life, I’ve discovered that I’ve taken some HUGE risks. I’ve pursued dreams that people thought I was crazy for believing in.
- I moved 1000 miles away to college when I was 18 to a school where I didn’t know a soul and didn’t own a car. (A big leap for a girl who lived in a town with a population of 200 – seriously 200!)
- I quit college after my sophomore year to take an unpaid internship at the company I had always dreamed of working for. I moved to Nashville with everything I could pack in my 1992 Saturn with no money and no place to live.
- I resigned from an amazing job at that same company where I had worked for eight years, left behind a career path that had me in line for executive status in a few years to take a position at this church called Cross Point.
I have a tendency to not consider these decisions big risks because each and every one of them was well-thought-out, prayed over and acted upon cautiously. But in looking back, these were huge, critical milestones in my life that if I hadn’t taken the risk, my course of life would have looked very different than it does today.
We hear all the time that leaders are risk-takers, but I think oftentimes we fail to give that challenge any context or definition. I would clarify that I believe leaders are healthy risk-takers.
- are thoughtful/careful
- always count the cost
- evaluate and understand the risk and what’s potentially at stake
- have thorough dialogue with those involved or affected by the risk
- weigh the cost of failure
- know who it will affect and how
- attempt to learn all that can be known and accept what can’t
- surround their decisions in prayer
I don’t believe you can lead without taking some risks. It’s part of what makes you a leader – the willingness to make the decisions that no one else will make. But I would also challenge that taking risks is not easy. The best risks are the ones that are agonized over, evaluated and then confidently acted upon.
What healthy risks have you taken lately?