Offense-based Leadership Reduces Business Risk

Managing risk requires first that you define “risk.” In business there are a lot of risks: Safety issues, legal actions, technology failures, labor disputes, vendor problems, customer defaults, etc.  However, these risks are meaningless if your enterprise is slipping towards the point of failure or non-viability. Many leaders are closer to non-viability than they think.

Therefore, the primary risk to manage, before any other, is the risk of business decline. Unfortunately many leaders fall into the trap of becoming defensive leaders, holding tightly to what they describe as a “conservative” leadership approach.  Their leadership is more accurately defensive mode; evidenced by direction like, “We just need to batten down the hatches, cut labor/staff, and when business picks up we will rebound.”

The defensive mode creates far more risk to a business than most realize.  Assuming you are operating at an optimal staffing level, which we should all strive for, reducing staff will nearly always amplify performance problems.  Personnel reductions are usually followed by lower sales, reduced customer satisfaction, and worst of all, the loss of the team’s best and brightest, who sense defeat in your approach and head for brighter opportunities.

The tendency to get defensive is dangerous any time –not just when things are tough. Who hasn’t watched a football team with a late-game lead go into “prevent-defense”? Knowledgeable fans now refer to it as the “prevent-a-win defense”, because the team with the lead goes into a protective mode and often loses as the other team gets more creative and “offensive”, giving it everything they’ve got. It’s common to hear the fans for the offensive-minded team say, “Where was that during the rest of the game!?”

Consider this when looking for the growth and profitability that will ensure your long term success. Listen to yourself when you are discussing new opportunities. Listen to your team.  Have you been sending them messages to “protect” your lead, or are you encouraging everyone to be creative about your business? When was the last time you changed a policy or a long standing practice to increase your profit opportunities? When was the last time you publicly recognized an associate for identifying a paradigm that was costing the company profits?

Being an offense-based leader and seeking out and developing an offense-based team will make a big difference in the future of your enterprise.  The defensive mode is inevitable for all leaders faced with uncontrolled catastrophes where it is the only option.  The key to managing the risk is that every time you find yourself going into the defensive mode, be sure it is for the right reasons and challenge yourself to break back into offense-based leadership as quickly as you can.

Pursuit of growth is the only sure fire approach to risk management, and it only occurs consistently when an enterprise has leaders who stay focused on innovation and systematic pursuit of their vision—offensive leadership.

Category: Leadership Risk Management


About the Author: Andrew Bielat

Bielat earned a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Illinois,

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