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Heroes in Risk Taking

When deciding to Accept Challenges and Take Risks, values-based leaders must determine whether they are risk takers or risk seekers. What's the difference? In his 1943 book, The Hero in History: A Study in Limitation and Possibility, philosopher Sidney Hook distinguished between two types of historical figures: eventful leaders and event-making leaders. Eventful leaders, like risk takers, deal with issues when they arise. Event-makers, and risk seekers, shape events by doing what others could not--or would not--do.

Wrote Hook, "The great man or woman in history is someone of whom we can say on the basis of the available evidence that if they had not lived when they did, or acted as they did, the history of their countries and of the world, to the extent that they are intertwined, would have been profoundly different."

Most leadership risk taking is by assignment; a higher authority delegates a task outside your comfort zone, creating a risky challenge for you to meet. But Hook said, "The event-making individual is someone who by extraordinary traits of character or intelligence or some other distinctive facet of personality has largely shaped the viable alternatives of action between which he chooses, alternatives that but for him would probably not have emerged."

Hook disputed the notion that no one is irreplaceable. There are moments in history, he argued, when "a particular person may very well be indispensable." To be indispensable, you must be a risk seeker. If you wait for an invitation to take risks, your chances of changing the world are limited, and proving your leadership will take years.
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