Leadership is risky.

When you lead others, you take relational risks.

Because anytime you lead others, the context for your leadership is relationships. Relationships equal potential. In relationships with others, you can find support, encouragement, collaboration, and friendship. With others, it is possible that you will accomplish great things, celebrate amazing success. But in relationships with others, you may also experience disappointment, hurt, and frustration.

As leaders, we take relational risks because we are convinced that the potential for great things from relationships far outweighs the risks. We don’t focus on our fear of rejection or disappointment. We risk again and again because we are convinced that the only way to accomplish our goals is by partnering with others to get things done.

This afternoon, I called my friend Lisa on the phone to check in with her. Lisa is one of the leaders in the homeschool co-op that I started, then left behind, in Chicago. They are gearing up for a new school year: adding new families, clarifying their vision for the group, and deepening working relationships.

While talking to Lisa, who is now one of my closest friends despite our geographical distance, a picture entered my mind of the day we first met, in the locker room at our local YMCA.

I had started several cooperative learning groups for my kids while living in Chicago. On the cold November day that I met Lisa, I happened to be on the lookout for new families to invite to our group. Several families had moved to the suburbs. Lisa seemed like the perfect fit – her kids ages matched my kids’ ages closely enough – and we seemed to share common values about parenting and educating our kids.

Inviting Lisa to join our co-op was risky. I had to take the initiative relationally as I sought to form a new friendship. I also had to communicate the vision of our group in a clear and compelling way. So, I risked rejection of myself, and I risked rejection of my idea, my vision, of joining with other families for fun and learning.

If not for that cold November day in the YMCA locker room, Lisa would not be leading the co-op this year, and I would not have the joy of her friendship.

Leadership is risky. But the risks are worthwhile.

I needed this reminder tonight, as I invite a group of near-strangers to join with me in starting a new learning cooperative for preschoolers. It’s not easy or comfortable to take the initiative to start something new, but I am excited about the potential and possibility that these new relationships possess.

Join the conversation!

What relational risks do you take as a leader?

This was originally posted at Mountain State University LeaderTalk and is reposted with permission.