On Leadership & Risk.

As part of a non-graded assessment for by MBA, I recently watched this video that had excerpts of interviews with Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, and Jack Ma.

The questions were then:

Is this a new breed of Leadership? Do you see a common theme/s among them all?

And so let’s tackle this one by one. If this is to make any sense for you, I would suggest you watch the video first and then read this 🙂

Is this a new breed of Leadership?

I don’t think so. I’ve been reading a lot of interesting books this year, including a huge biography on Julius Ceasar titled “Caesar, Life of a Colossus” and also a fascinating book about the history of the construction of The Pentagon, the headquarters of the USA Department of Defense. And guess what I found? The same qualities in these three guys – Zuckerberg, Musk, and Ma – are actually not new at all.

All three leaders talk about taking risks, and this is something that key historical leaders in business, government, and military have been doing for thousands of years. In fact, one could argue that the history books are written by the risk takers that happened to be successful.

However, they are not rash risk takers. Elon Musk mentions that he thought that SpaceX had a 10% chance of success when he started, but he felt it was an important enough initiative that he had to do it anyway.

Jack Ma understood that China needed a payment system if eCommerce was to take off, and he did it regardless that the current laws at the time did not have a framework for this to happen. He was willing to take a calculated risk.

In the same fashion, General Brehon B. Somervell wanted to build the Pentagon, the world’s largest office building at the time, and have employees move in within less than a year. Everyone thought that he was crazy and that this project would be impossible, and yet it happened.

So I think these leaders have always existed, but what’s different now is that we have access to their stories through social media and the internet. We can watch them live their lives and see how they make decisions in real-time.

Do you see a common theme/s among them all?

There are three themes that I see:

  1. They are all willing to take risks
  2. They have a clear vision for what they want to achieve
  3. They are not afraid of failure

And I think these three themes are actually interconnected. If you don’t have a clear vision, it’s hard to take risks because you don’t know what you’re aiming for. And if you’re afraid of failure, you’re also going to be less likely to take risks.

So I think the common theme here is that these leaders are not afraid to take risks because they have a clear vision for what they want to achieve. And even if they fail, they learn from their mistakes and they don’t give up.

This is actually a really important lesson for all of us, because I think too often we’re afraid to take risks because we’re afraid of failing. But if we don’t take risks, we’ll never achieve anything great.

Not taking risks is, in aggregate, the biggest risk of them all.

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