Stepping Over The Edge, Again.

Richard Shrapnel's 'Stepping Over The Edge, Again.'

In business, as a leader, risk is something you must embrace if you are to grow your business and succeed. But you cannot walk this path alone, and you need everyone else in your business also to be comfortable with taking risks. Building a courageous business rests with you as its leader.


Active Knowledge Question:

Is your business a leader or a follower?


The Courage To Take The Step

Nothing is guaranteed in life or business. Moreover, change is continual so you can’t stand still. If you personally or your business are going to succeed on an enduring basis then change must become a part of who you are.

But it’s not change just for the sake of change, or following what everyone else is doing. Being a follower is not going to bring success to you personally or to any business. Success lies in stepping out and often into the unknown. It’s about leading and capturing the victory. And this is where finding the courage to step over the edge becomes critical to your enduring success.

Businesses, leaders and achievers that are successful never get comfortable with stepping over the edge time and time again. Every time they do it, they take a deep breath and say here we go again. There is an edge, they know there are risks, and it may not work out as planned. They are not reckless nor foolish, but they also know that there is only one direction and that is forward.

But no one should journey these unknown paths alone. Whether as an individual or a business leader, you must always ensure others are there to support you.

As an individual, it’s having a champion in your corner. As a business its having built your business to be courageous and achieving that typically requires a permanent change at many levels of your business.


Why Courage?

Courage can be and is expressed in many contexts. It may be defined as having the ability to step forward and act although frightened.

The competitive strength of a business lies in the combined talent and effort of all those who work within and with that business. Mustering that combined talent rests with leadership and comes about through trust and engagement. No leader should expect their business to achieve its potential and the successes that are within its reach, without the complete support of their entire team.

Many barriers can emerge in a business that will dissuade people from contributing their efforts and talents into a business. And fear expressed in many forms is one of the most prominent barriers.

A person who does not speak up in a meeting for fear of looking foolish or being ridiculed. A person who fears demerit from their manager for not following their way. A person who has a great idea but will not offer it up as they fear failure and the penalties that accompany that in their business. A person who has made a mistake or seen something being done that they consider unsafe but fears reporting it. And I am sure you can now recognise many other examples in your business.

All these fears degrade the competitive performance of a business and arise not just from the individual but the failings of the business to build a courageous organisation.


The Makings Of Courage

So what may allow one person to step forward and embrace fear and risk, time and time again, while others just cannot?

I believe in the simplest terms it rests in ‘what you fear losing’. If you have no fear of loss, then you don’t need much courage. Expressed another way, the degree of courage you require is proportional to the degree of loss you fear. And what one person fears may not impact another.

There is however another aspect to counterweight the fear of loss, and that is the desire to succeed and faith in oneself which seem to go hand in hand. If I want to succeed, then the momentum built through that desire and faith will counterweight the fear of loss. Putting that together, the desire to succeed and faith in self needs to outweigh the fear of loss, and then the courage will be there.

People tagged as entrepreneurs usually have a burning faith in their business and themselves, and just keep pushing forward always believing that it will work. Quite often it doesn’t succeed, and the losses can be significant. But you also usually find these entrepreneurs picking themselves up and moving forward again. Their desire to succeed is almost insatiable. We can’t help ourselves.

What are some personal traits that underpin courage and allow the desire to win and faith in oneself to emerge? I would list the following must have’s and must not have’s:

Must Have:

  • Purpose: one that convicts and compels you to act.
  • Wisdom: to enable you to quickly recognise circumstances in the business environment and lead necessary change expediently.
  • Humility: reflecting a willingness to listen and learn from others, to place someone else before yourself, to uplift and invest in them.
  • Gratitude: allowing you to look at everything with thanks, lifting out opportunity and a positive approach to life.

Must Not Have:

  • Cowardice: will only lead to lost opportunities. A leader who is scared of failure will not be able to lead a business through change.
  • False Pride: is readily manipulated by a competitor and reflects those who will quickly place their wellbeing, image and feelings above that of the business.
  • Recklessness: will only destroy a business and is often found in bravado and overconfidence. Courage must be moderated by wisdom.

And one other ‘must not have’ which is prevalent in business today and resides in motive, is self-interest. ‘Me-first’ is the antithesis of courage and success.  


A Courageous Organisation

Courageous organisations are seeded by leaders who are themselves courageous, possess the traits of a worthy leader as outlined above and who use the competitive engine in their business to allow everyone the space to step forward.

Within every business, whether recognised or not is a competitive engine that sets the floor and ceiling to the success of that business. It is through the elements that comprise the competitive engine that leaders can establish trust and engagement. Moreover, through which courage will emerge, and the competitiveness of the business will soar.

Keep in mind that you are seeking to build an eco-system that will lift courage to the forefront, and this will be achieved if the desire to succeed and faith in oneself and the organisation outweigh the possible loss that may be incurred.

Here are some of the elements of the competitive engine and how they will bring courage to the forefront:

  • Purpose: The business exists for a ‘righteous’ purpose which makes achieving it worthwhile, and something individuals can take pride in.
  • Motive: The preeminent motive underpinning efforts in the business is not self-interest nor profit, but ‘to compete’.
  • Worthy leadership: Leaders who possess the right character traits and put the customer and others first.
  • Barriers: Self-interest, bureaucracy and paradigms that create barriers to open participation and contribution are continuously removed.
  • Rewards: Correct behaviour is the prime focus of rewards, and they are equally available to all for their efforts.
  • Culture: Trying, contribution and participation are celebrated, and failure is not unjustly punished.


Outcompeting everyone else in your chosen marketplace requires that you are continually stepping out and this can only be achieved on a platform of courage with everyone participating and contributing openly and freely. This is the type of business all leaders should be seeking to build.


An entirely new level of performance.

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All the best in the success of your business,

Richard Shrapnel