I had a surprising feedback call with an HR director. He had decided not to withhold a candidate due to the fact that he did not believe he would have the ability to take risks. Of all the reasons why a client may decide not to continue a selection process with a candidate, this was a new one. Could it be true that the ability to take risk is a quality that can determine success?
When I started researching I immediately ended up with hundreds, if not thousands, of articles that have been written about how risk taking is linked to the willingness to fail. Managers are often thought to tolerate mistakes to foster a learning organization.
I believe that that is turning things the other way around. If risk-taking is immediately linked to making mistaking and learning from them, we are focusing on the negative. After all, who likes to fail? The concept of failure immediately entails the idea of embarrassment and the loss of esteem and stature.
When we look at today’s top business leaders, it is not their mistakes that we remember. It is their willingness to make bold moves, their courage to take tough decisions.
Is it an inborn characteristic or is it a skill that they have acquired throughout the years and improved with practice?
I believe that it is the latter. People who become good leaders may have a greater than average willingness to make risky moves, but they strengthen their chances of success—and avoid career suicide—through careful deliberation and preparation.
And that is exactly where the key to success lies. The skill to make intelligent decisions between risk and irresponsibility combined with careful preparation and forethought will to a large degree determine the level of achievement that you will attain.
Not all risks are equal. You can close your eyes and jump but without looking where you are going, you are merely rolling the dice in a casino. The most intelligent risks are those where the potential downside is limited and fixed, but the potential upside is wide. Those are the risks you should jump to take. Making that choice comes with practice, with talking to others as a sounding board.
Ensuring that your choice becomes a success requires careful planning, clear objectives, the ability to look ahead and possibly a contingency plan. That way you can minimize risk and maximize the odds that you'll succeed.
Many people do what you do and so the only way you are going to stand out from the crowd, is by leaving the well established, proven paths. That means taking risks. Consequently, having the ability to choose and manage risks by going through the process of calculating the risks, taking your chances, but also learning from your mistakes is how leaders are made and a key determining factor for your success.
So, go out there and find an intelligent risk you can take today. Maybe it won’t work out. But what if it does? Celebrate either way because no matter what the outcome, you’ll gain courage just by making the attempt.
I look forward to talking to you
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