Risks and leadership

riskOne way and another, risk-taking has been on my mind a lot recently. As we’re looking at building organizational capacity, part of the definition is “engaging and supporting appropriate risk-taking.” Here are a couple examples of what that might mean for day-to-day leadership.

From a project management perspective, leaders need to identify potential risks, decide how likely they are and how much impact they’d have, and then decide what to do about them. Avoiding all risks isn’t practical, or even possible. Appropriate risk taking means deciding on the right approach:

  • Avoid – take intentional action to ensure the situation does not occur
  • Transfer – hire someone else to manage the risk (for example, ask a third party vendor to complete the project)
  • Accept – acknowledge there is nothing to be done and deal with the situation if it occurs
  • Mitigate – take steps to minimize the likelihood and/or severity of the situation

Another way to look at risk-taking is part of the hiring process. The human tendency toward a zero-risk bias means that leaders might not be willing to take an appropriate risk on a candidate who could bring new viewpoints, background and perspectives to the role. There can be a tendency to look for a candidate who is similar to the previous successful incumbent, or to others on the work team.

Where have you encountered risk-taking in your leadership, and how did you decide what was appropriate?

Dee Anne Bonebright




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