This post can really be summed up in three words: Take a Risk.
My original intent was not to write about risk taking, but as I was researching the topic, that’s where everything was pointing. Every quote or quip I looked at that talked about being opportunistic really translated into being a risk taker. It really just boils down to the fact that you can’t be opportunistic without taking a risk. If you waited until everything lined up perfectly before you moved, chances are the opportunity is gone. The risk is in the gap.
Personally, I’m about a 5 out of 10 on the risk aversion scale. I’m not afraid to try new things, but I’m not as quick to jump in as other people. I don’t think this is a bad thing, but I also don’t consider it good. As a leader, I have to make decisions that don’t only jeopardize myself, but also other people. When I take a risk, I have more than myself to think about. When I think about taking a risk, I have other input to consider than just my own – the input of those I lead.
There is a healthy amount of risk, and there is an unhealthy amount of risk. Healthy risk would look like a well informed decision with incomplete information, but still well-researched and discussed. It may not pan out, but that’s part of risk – it’s a game of chance. Unhealthy risk would look like a decision that could have been researched or discussed amongst the team but was not at all. You would be very lucky if the latter succeeded. I suppose the adage “failing to plan is planning to fail” could be used here.
One thing to remember about risk is that healthy risk is not taking a shot in the dark. Healthy risk is still planning, researching, and discussing, and only then making a decision even if information is incomplete; the goal is to shine as much light as possible on the decision before making it. Unhealthy risk would be related to taking a shot in the complete dark without having any idea where the target is. Unwise and dangerous.
We must be courageous risk takers as leaders. Only then can we successfully lead our people into risk and therefore opportunity.