Leadership and Risk: Calculated Risk Taking for Success


Back in my skydiving days friends and neighbors often commented that I was a risk-taker.  And I have to admit to putting myself in situations that might not always be good for me at times.  However, I truly don’t like taking risks in business unless I’ve done my homework and feel confident the return on investment will be worthwhile.   After doing some research recently on business opportunities it strikes me that while leaders are known as risk-takers, successful leaders use what I would consider calculated risk taking better than those who are less successful.

Here’s my thinking:  someone who is able to take risk in business quite casually without a great deal of thought or research is really what I would consider a gambler, rather than a leader.  Gamblers sometimes hit big and become wildly successful of course.  But gamblers also fail frequently, and don’t necessarily develop a huge following.  It’s important to have followers if a person is going to claim to be a leader.   At the other end of the spectrum, those who are extremely risk-averse will either spend so much time researching opportunities that they may miss out on successful ventures, or they will not even consider possibly risking moves.

Taking calculated risks is a balance between being a gambler and missing out on opportunities.  Most long-term successful leaders have learned the right balance that works for them.  To gain more experience in finding this balance I suggest including conversations with business leaders, especially successful entrepreneurs, when researching an opportunity.  Think of these leaders as mentors who can help provide insight into when it is time to stop researching and start leading.