Greenleaf wrote that “Leading entails risk or requires a venturesome spirit, or both.”
What does that say to us if we don’t like to take risks or don’t have a “venturesome spirit”? What does that say about our ability to lead? If those attributes are essential, as Greenleaf suggests, how might I develop them?
Entrepreneurs are risk takers! Investing in new energy sources is a risky proposition! The American Cancer Society warns of the health risks of cigarette smoking. We may or may not feel comfortable with taking some risks and reject others outright. Saying no to certain risks does not make us “risk adverse”. In many cases, saying no is the right answer. This is true in leading. We don’t take every risk. We take the risks that our informed judgment suggests we take. With proper execution, the risk has a better than average chance of succeeding. The leader does the work to decide if the risk is worth taking.
Our friend, John Beede, went to Antarctica last week to begin his climb to reach and descend from the 7th summit of his quest to reach the highest peaks on each continent. He takes risks with each expedition, knows his limits and pushes forward to achieve his goals. He is a great example of a venturesome spirit. He set his goal and relentlessly pursues it. I hope he is successful this time. Even if he isn’t, he will adjust his course and try again. That’s the secret of a venturesome spirit. We don’t need to climb Everest to be a venturesome spirit. We do need to have a dream, never lose sight of it and work daily to achieve it.
What are the lessons in this for the servant-leader?
- Build your reservoir of experiences: Informed judgment requires that we have had a series of successes and failures. We have learned from each:
- The factors considered in our plan,
- The resources needed to be successful
- The actions we executed.
- Consider the consequences of not acting: Sometimes standing still is the right decision, but, with history as our teacher, it will not be for long. The world has changed so fast in the last 10 years. The rate of change will continue to accelerate with the power that technology provides.
- Get comfortable with discomfort: Ginny Rometty, CEO of IBM, is quoted as saying “Growth and comfort don’t co-exist. That’s true for people, companies, nations”. A servant-leader is committed to the growth of others. That will bring discomfort.
- Involve others: Your team may not be comfortable with change. Leading them through it will help ensure success and build their reservoirs. Allow yourself to be vulnerable. Describe the goal with passion but be realistic about the risks. Continue to communicate along the way and invite input on course corrections when needed.
- Keep the Dream Alive: We are all motivated by the purpose. When tough days come, the dream will refuel our energy reserves.
The servant-leader must be out in front helping others find their way!
With you on the journey,