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Short questions … Post #2 (of 7): Takes Risks

This is the second of a series of short posts based on feedback to an earlier article about the changing face of leadership.

This is a rich, relevant and multi-faceted topic and we are keen to keep the conversation flowing. So we’ve launched a LinkedIn Group called ‘Leadership in a Changing World’ which we invite you to join.

“At times like these, playing safe or playing not to lose rarely wins.”

On the second of Zenger Folkman’s newly identified competencies of leadership, much of the feedback was around how context-dependent risk is:

“What looks like a risk to one person looks like a wise choice to another.”

“Risk is relative to the person taking the risk. A finance person might have a different appetite for risk to an engineer or sales person.”

Some respondents accepted the unavoidability of risk but focused on ways to reduce the organisation’s exposure:

“If we partner up then those risks could get mitigated fast.”

While others were frank about the downsides of trying too hard to avoid risk, especially in a landscape so changed by the pandemic:

“We became uber risk-averse. Everything was pitched in terms of Covid safety and we risked it pervading all our planning and strategy to the point it would become all-consuming.”

There were also nuanced takes on the different motivations for risk-taking, and how to encourage the right attitude to risk across organisations:

“We need to take measured risks as leaders – meaning risks that consider some sort of ‘downside protection’ in our actions (vs being focused on upside maximization prior to the pandemic).”

“Take risks, yes. But there’s a point to be made about leaders needing to create the right culture of psychological safety that enables their people to feel safe and be prepared to take risks themselves. So this is about the whole business rather than just leaders taking risks.”


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