Leadership Trait of the Week: Risk

Being a leader – at school, work, or in your own life – involves varying degrees of risk. If you are making a huge life decision, debating whether to put yourself out there to run for student government, or deciding to transfer schools, certain choices you make require risk-taking. Risk-taking is often much easier said than done and it might not come naturally to you. That’s okay. It takes time to become a risk-taker. 

Risk is the possibility that something unpleasant will occur. When you take risks, there is the chance that the outcome you want might not happen, but there is also the chance that it could happen and be everything you wanted and more. 

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If uncertainty frightens or challenges you, keep these 12 tips in mind if you want to be a better risk-taker…

1. Step outside of your comfort zone. Taking risks means doing something that could make you uncomfortable, scared, and stressed. However, know that this is completely normal when you are about to do something that you might not normally do or if you have important things you are giving up to take this risk. Stepping outside of the bounds that you are naturally comfortable with will give you the courage to try new things.

2. Have faith in yourself. Trust yourself. You want to take a backpacking trip across Europe? Go for it! You are thinking about organizing a trash pick-up group over the weekend? You can do it! You have the ability to do anything, especially when you have faith in yourself.

3. Determine why you want to take a risk. What is driving or compelling you to do this thing you really want to do? What are you passionate about? Why now? Figure out why exactly you want to take a risk so that you can use it as fuel to get you started and to keep you moving.

4. Baby steps. Nothing happens overnight. Deciding to take a risk is the leap you make, but take baby steps to build your dreams and achieve your goals.

5. Be comfortable making decisions. Don’t think that making one decision will be “right” or “wrong.” This is not a test. Make a decision based on facts, your gut, and experience, and then deal with the consequences from there – good or bad. You won’t know until you make the first move.

6. Have confidence. You know why you want to take the leap and do something awesome and potentially off the beaten path. Tell others with confidence and let your dreams come to life through your words and actions.

7. Take strategic risks. Don’t just do something to do something. Think through what you want to do and how you plan to accomplish it. If you take a risk without thinking about the consequences or your safety, perhaps you are taking a risk that may in fact be too risky and just plain ol’ dangerous.

8. Identify your fears. What scares you and why? When you can pinpoint what makes you scared, you can then start to overcome those fears.

9. Build a support system. Your friends and family can be a fantastic support system, and on days when you question your abilities, talk to your support system to give you the boost you need to keep going.

10. It’s OK to ‘fail.’ It might be helpful to figure out your definition of failure. Many failures can actually be great when you learn from your mistakes to make you stronger.

11. Stay positive. There will be days you doubt yourself. Totally normal. Maintain a positive attitude so that when you slip out of your funk, you won’t have abandoned your goals due to a low moment that everyone has periodically. Think about what compelled you to take a risk in the first place and use that as positive energy.

12. Stop making excuses. Just stop! It’s too easy and it will prevent you from ever doing what you want to do. Leap, make baby steps, and take it from there. Less talking, more action.

What risks have you taken or want to take?