Leadership is Risky

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storm clouds

I hope you had a good weekend – I did.  

This past weekend, I set out for a bike ride on Saturday morning. If you live in the northeast, you know we were on standby for quite a bit of rain from Hurricane Henri. But I really wanted to get my bike ride in. At 7am-ish, I checked the weather report again and saw that the rain wasn’t likely to start before noon. By 9am, I had arrived at the start of the 29 miles route. It wasn’t too hot and the sun wasn’t blazing. Frankly, I don’t like to ride on particularly sunny days because it’s hotter and the potential for sunburn increases (Black may not crack, but it definitely burns)! Evenso, I knew I needed to hustle to beat the rain. To make matters more interesting, I focus on long-distance stamina rather than speed (translation: I’m slow). Nevertheless, I set out and the sky looked like this:


Perhaps I chose the worst possible day to take a new route: I got lost at the very beginning, went around in circles and added six miles to the route just trying to figure out where the heck I was! Despite having lost about a half hour, I was determined to ride. I turned up my music and scoffed at mother nature. I am not a wuss! About 12 miles in, the sky looked like this:


At 15 miles, it looked like this:

Guess what? At that point, it was “go for broke” because I was nearly at the halfway mark. There was risk either way, and I began thinking about all of the short-sighted mistakes I’d made in my impulsive plan to ride. The biggest mistake of all is that I didn’t plan for how heavy rain would affect my navigation system. If I lost signal in the rain, I was going to be completely as the mercy of strangers and the elements because I was in a part of south Jersey that I am not familiar with. Even if I could call someone, I couldn’t tell them where to find me. Yikes! I was starting to panic. Mind you, when I feel panic coming on, I sing. Now, EVERYBODY on Route 206 knows that I was NOT a choir kid! As I sang, I thought, “Wow, there are so many leadership parallels here.”  


Know what is on the line when you take on risk.
I wore contacts instead of glasses (windshield wipers exist for a reason) and knew that it was close to “wash day” for my hair, so I thought I had only time to lose. However, I didn’t think through the safety risks posed by drivers on potentially slick and wet roads…or a weather proof device to get me back to my car.


Most of us lose a little nerve in the middle of a major risk.
Expect “nerves” when doing something new or risky! Whether you sing or something else, it’s important to know what calms you because stressed out people don’t think clearly. Additionally, you can’t manage distress and the emotional climate of the people you’re leading if you’re wigging out, too. 

Look for lessons learned along every step of the way.

There’s value in every experience, including the ones that you think are terrible: perhaps it’s a good idea to always anticipate needing extra time, especially in the beginning, when going somewhere new (or undertaking change). I have worked with countless teams that don’t have the courage to investigate their failures…and they often repeat the same mistakes, lose confidence, and give up (even if they still show up). 


When I finally made it back to my car, the sky looked a little like this …………… then, the bottom fell out (next time, we’ll talk about what’s it’s like to lead when the bottom falls out).


  1. Cynthia Atkins on August 24, 2021 at 12:35 pm

    I love this metaphor with the Leadership linkage!

    • M. Sutton on August 25, 2021 at 6:46 am

      Thank you! The way my mind mind works, I see them everywhere :).

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