Risk Taking is a Strategic Necessity

How can leadership promote a culture of risk-taking while maintaining safeguards?

Some people think that lowering the threshold for strategic decisions leads to higher risk while maintaining a high level of support from followers?

But the opposite is true.

Lowering the support needed for a strategic decision leads followers to take less risks – which can negatively impact execution.

In fact, when managers are brought together and told that a simple majority vote will lead to adoption of a strategic objective, they are less likely to support the project.

And this negatively impacts engagement and pushes followers into a position where they choose to be less supportive and less courageous.


Because a lower threshold means greater personal responsibility and therefore the need for greater scrutiny. Not blame, but personal desire to make sure the decision is a good one – which can mean missed opportunities.

Knowing how much your vote counts on a project proposal influences how you might vote.

So, followers need a cultural safety net to get past the roadblock. Straw polling, or round table discussions before a go/no-go decision can help as decision-makers learn from their peers.

This may eliminate the need for greater scrutiny through knowledge sharing of the project’s potential impact. But it can still take leaders time to assess whether they feel the proposal aligns with purpose and vision.

These straw polls or round tables can help when high levels of risk lead to hesitation on a new project. BUT it depends on the level of TRUST these leaders put in each other and their ability to gather and accept inputs from others.

So, it can help decision-makers gain confidence and insights and allow followers to be more supportive and take risks. But only if the organizational culture has already created the trust needed for followers to help each other make informed decisions.

By creating a supportive culture that allows followers to support and be vocal about potentially risky opportunities and to follow their instincts, leadership is more likely to arrive at the best decision and that can give top management what it needs to reflect on how to make the best decision.

#BeCourageous and let your followers know they can support risky decisions. Give them the space to explain why they see worth in those opportunities. And Share that information widely to get other managers on boards when you see chance staring you in the face.


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