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Weigh risk of inaction vs. taking action

by on
in Best-Practices Leadership,Leaders & Managers

Some leaders have an almost magical ability to predict where the market is going and take the right risk at the right time.

One such case study is Andy Grove, co-founder of microprocessing giant ­Intel. He offers four tips for staying one step ahead:

1. “Make yourself available to be influenced by people who want to influence you, who need to influence you,” says Grove.

Not only did Grove work out of a ­cubicle among his engineers, he ate in the cafeteria, so he could be available to those who could see what he couldn’t see.

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2. Gather and assess data like a pollster. When you hear opinions expressed repeatedly and passionately, that’s when it’s time to pay attention. Once you’ve reached a tipping point in information gathering, act on it.

3. Act decisively, even when you’re not feeling that way. “You have to lead people into uncertainty,” says Grove. “And the only thing that you have to lead them with is your own convictions and your own credibility.”

That doesn’t mean “faking it.” You have to believe in what you’re doing. But you may feel less confident than you act.

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4. Inaction can be riskier than action. This one resonates most deeply for Grove.

When he was a child, the Nazis deported his father to a slave labor camp. He and his mother had to decide between two risks—the risk of fleeing and of staying.

Fleeing would mean leaving behind the home and neighborhood they trusted. But by staying, they risked being rounded up and sent to an uncertain fate. They opted to leave everything behind, even their identities.

Twelve years later, Grove was forced to flee again, as the Red Army advanced into Hungary, where Grove was attending a university. If he were caught, he would have been tossed in a Gulag. Staying put meant enduring communism.

Leadership lesson: You may never face the Red Army or the Nazis, but you may face a time when the risk of inaction is higher than action.

Make yourself available to be influenced. When you have enough data, move forward with more confidence than you feel.

— Adapted from “Great Leaders Get Regular Reality Checks,” Donald Van de Mark, ThoughtLeaders blog.

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