It’s easy to take risks when you don’t have anything to lose. But success can stifle your risk-taking. It’s counter-intuitive, but it’s true. Success is an anchor. You don’t move ahead for fear of losing what you have.
I’ve seen it happen in businesses, churches and other organizations. The founding leader risks everything to launch it, build it and establish it. But once the organization is solidly successful, everyone fights to keep it just the way it is. They don’t want change. They don’t want to lose what they have. It’s comfortable. It’s secure. It’s familiar. Risk-taking is stifled, shunned and feared. Institutionalization sets in. Maintenance is the norm. A long-slow death is inevitable.
I’ve personally had the thrill of being the founder of an organization that has charted an up-and-to-the-right growth curve for nearly three full decades. Of course, we’ve had our dips and setbacks. But here’s the big picture. From six to over two thousand. From a staff of one to over fifty. From a budget of tens of thousands to millions. It continues to thrive. Why? How?
Number one above all else, there is the God-factor. His providence. His blessing. His calling. His wisdom. His provision. His power. His grace. No doubt about it.
Yet every other church has the same access to God and His resources. As I’ve reflected many times over the years, here are the additional factors:
Risk is Good – From the get-go, calculated risk has been in the DNA of our organization. Problems are viewed as opportunities not obstacles. Roadblocks force you to find a new road to your destination. A new road brings new discoveries. Fear of taking risks destroys dreams. The dream in your heart is worth the risk.
Embrace Failure – Failure is never final. You never know how far you can go until you’ve failed. Every successful leader has a bucket of wisdom filled with things that didn’t work. We’ve started things and shut down things. We’ve regrouped and reorganized. Failure that comes from pushing too far is a gift. It shows you who you are and clarifies what matters.
Resist Security – With success always comes the temptation to build walls, fences and security systems to protect the accomplishments. It is natural to try to safeguard that which is proven. We drift toward comfort and status quo. Leaders cast a vision of new opportunities. Leaders must be willing to risk leaving the comfort-seekers behind to take the adventurous toward new territory.
Release Control – Leaders who focus on keeping everything in their grasp will eventually become the ceiling for their organization. Find other people more talented than you and empower them to fully engage their gifts. Expect untested people to step up. Call tested people to step up in untested areas.
T.S. Eliot said it best, “Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” What risk will you take today, this week, this year?
QUESTION: What would you add? I’d love to hear your comments below.