Become a High-Stakes Leader
When the stakes are high, that’s when we need the very best in leadership. Why do some leaders succeed and others fail? Why do some not only survive a crisis, but use difficulty to produce incredible results?
These questions are tackled by Constance Dierickx, PhD in her new book, HIGH-STAKES LEADERSHIP: Leading Through Crisis with Courage, Judgment and Fortitude. She shares how to lead with the type of courage that makes you stand out.
I recently asked her to share her insights on high-stakes leadership.
“Courage is the first of human virtues because it makes all others possible.” -Aristotle
What do you mean by High-Stakes leadership?
A high-stakes leader is someone who is successful when risk is high and visibility is low. New ventures are an example, whether they are for a new product, service, geography or method of production. Top leader changes, mergers and crisis are also examples of high-stakes situations.
Leaders who get good results achieve value on multiple fronts. As Jim Kennedy, Chairman of Cox Enterprises says, “It can’t be just about the money.” In a crisis, we need only compare the recent leadership failure at Equifax with the response of The Home Depot in a similar circumstance, a breach. The response of these two companies was wildly different. Frank Blake’s actions are a model of what to do.
My book talks about what leaders in high-stakes situations should do and provides examples from a wide range of organizations. I also talk about what gets in the way of leaders. Invisible traps include the human cognitive system, which is not a completely rational system. Our human limits lead us to make mistakes that may look foolish but can be the result of cognitive limits, the effect of emotion on decisions, the context or our own habits of avoiding anxiety.
There is an additional factor, which I include in my forthcoming book Breaking Up Is Hard to Do, in which I focus on mergers, acquisitions and divestitures. That is when we wrongly assign value to opportunities, risk, timelines, market size, and so forth. It’s one thing to think something is low risk and be right and quite another to believe risk is low when it isn’t. Even smart people can be blind when making evaluations, a part of leading. We don’t have measures for everything, and even when we do we aren’t always measuring what matters.
Perhaps the greatest risk of all is in thinking we are operating in a safe zone and being complacent.