Great leaders time-and-again showcase that the intrinsic qualities of their “greatness” came from taking a leap into the universe at some point... There is a sense of anxiety and nerves when you must walk down a staircase with only the concept that the stairs below you exist, rather than the physical presence of them. If you can only see the single step immediately in front of you, there comes a moment when you have to take the next step anyways, and put your foot out without knowing exactly what it looks like below. Leaders, especially the great ones, must do this over and over in their careers, and lives.
That moment is where fearless leadership can be one of your greatest success differentiators. It is not only the gut instincts, but must be coupled with the internal push to follow them.
In our field, we get the honor of seeing people take risks every day (it can take real guts to make a big job move or be the leader making a call that affects thousands). In-turn we get asked all the time by friends, family, clients, and candidates alike, about the career advice we have assimilated over time, or about guidance in tough business decision making. What we have learned from these talented people, and this HuffPost piece sums it up well, is that "without trial and error, and risk taking, you remain stagnant, predictable, and ultimately you will become complacent.” And stagnancy and complacency are in direct opposition to the most basic definitions of success.
This blog isn’t meant to serve as just an opinion piece, but hopefully a motivator to any leader who is standing on the ledge of the staircase needing to take that next step. Fast Company polled “movers and shakers who took big risks to get where they are today” and compiled the below examples (alongside others) in a guide, showcasing what it takes to be a fearless leader:
“Don’t let the unknown throw you off your game.” David Daneshgar, cofounder of BloomNation
“When it comes down to it, and you have all your chips down, are you willing to trust yourself? Ninety-nine percent of people don’t because they are scared. Even when I was in business school, everyone claimed they had an idea, but they couldn’t execute on it [because of fear]. They were [leaving school with] $100,000 worth of debt, so they had to be financially comfortable. But an entrepreneur knows that anything that is comfortable is not in their ecosystem.”
“It’s okay to take a risk–it just might be worth it.” Bruce Poon Tip, founder of G Adventures
“A high tolerance for risk is really at the heart of every great entrepreneur who lives for those high-risk/high-reward opportunities, which don’t come around often. I get excited by [these kinds of] opportunities–I view them as keys to being innovative and disruptive in business, which creates differentiation for your company.”
“Giving back should be part of your plan.” Mayer Dahan, C.E.O. of Dahan Properties
“I know to be successful at a young age is an incredible accomplishment, but to be charitable shows the amount of financial fearlessness you truly have. I’m always inspired by the quote: ‘We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.’”
So the way we see it, at maximum cash-in, if you take a big risk, it pays off in huge professional dividends for yourself, family, business, employees, etc… but in the very least, even if you crash and burn, if you are nervous and you embrace it in that moment, your heart is pumping and blood is flowing, and that means you’re alive. It’s a win-win. Go forth fearlessly!