The Risk of Leading


Failing the mission.  Team disfunction.  Loss of resources, time, money, and people.  These are all outcomes when leading.  It’s scary to step into the role of a leader.  Once you have decided to care for others the people and the mission become your responsibility.  It’s terrifying knowing that the decisions you make could hinder the mission or the people around you.  And if everything does go south, all fingers could point to you.

There is risk in leading, but that’s what makes a leader a leader.  They understand things may not always work out and that the outcome is never guaranteed.  Leaders take on the risk in order to achieve success, but they make decisions using their knowledge and experienced combined with the team’s knowledge and experience to make wise decisions.  Leveraging the power of the team is necessary to reduce the risk.  Leaders do this constantly and consistently. 

Bottom line, it’s going to be scary.  It’s going to be challenging and it’s going to be tough.  There is no avoiding it.   The greatest part about risk is that when it works right everybody wins!  Innovation requires risk and without leaders pushing the boundaries of the line between failure and success innovation will not occur.  

There is purpose to why we spend so much time developing our leadership abilities.  The more prepared we are the higher chance we have at succeeding.  The approach to risk always has the same liabilities, but the action to challenge it gets easier every time you take risk.  It’ll never feel perfect or guaranteed, but the fear, the uncertainty goes away because you know it has to happen.  People need to grow and the mission needs to be accomplished.  We can’t halt everything just because we have to face a decision with risk.

Keep in mind risk will come in many forms, but don’t approach it alone.  Use your team, the mission and the values that guide the culture to overcome it.  

Steve Rogers–Being a team

Leadership, MARVEL

It’s easier to get a job done if you have more than one person contributing to the project.  We all need help from time to time.  With that said, we know that teams are important.  A football team requires every person to know their job and their assigned responsibility.  The quarterback trusts that the linemen are going to protect him so he can focus on getting the ball to the right person.  If a lineman fails, the quarterback can be blindsided and get tackled.  This is crucial because the quarterback must trust his teammates.  He has no choice because he can’t block, run and pass the ball at the same time.  That’s why each position is crucial to the success of the team. If it’s 4th quarter with 5 minutes left and one team is losing by 40 points, the chances are, that team is going to lose.  They don’t stop the game and give up, but they tough it out because it’s how the game works.  You play till the last second is over, but a football team wins together or they lose together.  It is a team effort.

Most teams have a leader, a team captain, or an individual calling the shots.  In Avengers and Avengers Age of Ultron, Captain American by way of his leadership skills is gradually designated as the guy who calls the shots.  He is the team leader. It’s not because he’s super strong, fast and meant to be the first super soldier, but it’s because of his tenacious choice to do what’s right, even if it means failing.

Avengers: Age of Ultron

Tony Stark:  We’re the Avengers, we can bust weapons dealers the whole doo-da-day, but how do we cope with something like this?
Steve Rogers: Together
Tony Stark: We’ll lose
Steve Rogers: We do that together too.

Leaders keep teams together even if they know the outcome is not favorable.  They stick through the tough choices. They stick through the struggles, even when others on the team have doubt.  Leaders find ways to keep the attitude of their team reaching toward the goal. Whether it’s winning or just getting something accomplished.  In this debate, Steve and Tony are were talking about how to beat Ultron, as Tony is thinking it’s impossible, Steve Rogers says, we’ll then we’ll lose together, but we’re going to try. 

If you find your teammates starting to drag, starting to become discouraged, remind them that you are a team.  A strong team can accomplish anything.  Focus on the team’s mission not the thought of losing.  Captain America never gave up on the team and the team won.  Be the leader, be the one who holds the team together. Lead like Steve Rogers!

Iron Man–Taking Risks

Leadership, MARVEL


Steve Rogers: Stark, we need a plan of attack!
Tony Stark: I have a plan: attack!

In this moment of not thinking before acting, Tony Stark pursues Thor after he has taken Loki from their custody.  Captain America comments, “We need a plan of attack.” Stark replies, “I have a plan: attack!”  He didn’t create a plan, there wasn’t a discussion on what they were going to do next, he just flew after them. 

Iron Man took a risk!

There are many times when you have to take the risk and jump into the water.  Many leaders have a very fast thinking process.  They’re able to assess situations as they’re unfolding and act quickly.  This is a very difficult skill to master, but it’s not impossible.  Here, Iron Man teaches us that

Leaders take risks. 

Now, before you decide to jump into the water blindly, there is a difference in a calculated risk and a careless risk.  Depending on the skills, resources and knowledge of the leader, risks can be taken knowing that no matter what arises, the individual or team can handle the risk.  Iron Man definitely had the skills to take this risk.  Be logical about risk and the risks you are able to take. Remember, not taking a risk is in fact, still a risk. 

You can be a great leader by the risks you take and the risks you decide not to take.   

We often don’t face threatening risks such as this one with Tony Stark, but we do take chances on ideas, people and even new jobs.  You may have an idea that could help everyone in your office work more efficiently, but you also may be afraid that it may not work out.  It’s a risk to share an idea when you don’t know how other’s will react.  Some people are shy and this can be hard to overcome.  Just remember that you may be the only one with that idea, it’s crucial for you to risk ridicule, or rejection for the sake of making something better when no one else is taking a chance.  You can be super.  Lead like Iron Man.