Financial Planning | Leadership / Management | Technology & Social Media

Leadership? It’s all about playing in the rain

Rain I got caught outside in a downpour today.

Like an idiot, I didn't check Weather.com before leaving for my daily jog through the neighborhood. About halfway through my route, the skies darkened, then opened up entirely. Within minutes, I was drenched.

And you know what? It felt pretty good. I had completely forgotton how refreshing a soaking rain can be on a hot day.

It's a sensation I would never experience, though, if I didn't summon up the courage to leave the dry safety of my comfortable home every once in a while.

Playing it safe will take you only so far nowadays. To really succeed -- to break new ground, to blaze new trails, to lead -- you have to get outside of your comfort zone and take a few risks.

Verasage Institute deep thinkers Ron Baker and Ed Kless said as much during a recent Second Life presentation.

Their seminar focused on the contrasting economic theories of John Maynard Keynes and Jean-Baptiste Say. About midway through the event, though, Baker asked the audience to engage in the following thought exercise:

The following individuals lobby the federal government with a new idea:

  • A failed haberdasher
  • A sophomore Harvard dropout
  • A junior college dropout
  • A college student who earned a C+ on his last term paper
  • An executive from General Motors

Whose idea will the government fund?

The most likely answer, of course, is the GM executive. Why? Because most people naturally gravitate toward the status quo -- the safe, proven, familiar concepts that don't rock the boat. Who knows what those other upstarts will come up with?

The scenario shifts dramatically, though, when you consider that the failed haberdasher is Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton, the Harvard dropout is Microsoft legend Bill Gates, the JC dropout is talk-radio pioneer Rush Limbaugh, and the C+ college student is FedEx founder Fred Smith.

"Wealth and profits come from risk," Baker told the Second Life attendees, "from taking chances, from entrepreneurship."

From playing in the rain, in other words.

True, in this current economic environment, playing it safe can be a matter of economic survival for some folks. For them, taking risks is just too risky right now.

But when the recession loosens its grip, the next wave of business leaders will likely be the people who don't know enough to come in out of the rain.

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Bill Sheridan