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Growing Leaders Blog

on Leading the Next Generation


Which Leadership Approach Are You Taking Today?

In a day marked by scarcity in our minds and pocketbooks, I see leaders taking one of three approaches to running point in their organizations. Whether you’re a CEO in a company, a coach on a sports team, a dean at a university or a pastor of a church, it’s wise to diagnose how you approach each day on the job as a leader.


The three approaches could be called:

1.    The Risk Taker – Take new ground, risk failure but seize the day.

These leaders stay intentional about their mission, refusing to let tough times determine their style. They may have to adjust their methods or budgets, but they forge ahead and build confidence in others. The mission rules.

2.    The Care Taker – Maintain what you have; be careful and hold on.

These leaders choose to hunker down, and hold on to what they’ve got. They hope that times will get better, but sadly, they wait on opportunities or delay making tough decisions as they wish for better times. Maintenance rules.

3.    The Undertaker – Play it so safe, the organization slowly dies.

These leaders just get scared. They refuse to do the very things that got them where they are; progress turns into damage control. They realize things are dying and they reduce their hope to personal survival. “Me and mine” rules.

Neil Simon said, “Don’t listen to those who say ‘you’re taking too big a chance.’ Michelangelo would have painted the Sistine floor, and it would surely be rubbed out by today. Most important, don’t listen when the little voice of fear inside you rears its ugly head and says ‘they are all smarter than you out there. They’re more talented, they’re taller, blonder, prettier, luckier, and they have connections.” I firmly believe that if you follow a path that interests you, not to the exclusion of love, sensitivity, and cooperation with others, but with the strength of conviction that you can move others by your own efforts—and do not make success or failure the criteria by which you live—the chances are you’ll be a person worthy of your own respects.”

Leaders are not always the smartest people in the room. They may not be the most talented people either. They may not even be the person with the best idea at any given moment. But they certainly are the ones who act on the best idea. They have courage for the ones who are smart or talented, but are too afraid to act.

Which approach are you taking today?


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  1. Amy on November 25, 2013 at 11:57 am

    I enjoyed this article. Teachers, educators, and parents should all be seeking to cultivate young people who are risk-takers. Risk-takers are the ones that bring about transformation and change in society. They are one person with a vision who simply acts. By choosing to act, new movements are formed and history is changed. Young people should be excited to take on this form of leadership and not shy away from it. If we don’t have risk-takers, our society will suffer.

    • Tim Elmore on November 26, 2013 at 3:58 pm

      Hi Amy. Love your comment. Thank you for sharing!

  2. A Friend's Perspective on January 5, 2015 at 10:50 am

    With the church I pastored for 10 years, I tried to be a risk taker. I slid to becoming care taker. Soon, I ended up as an undertaker. God gave me a sabbatical year. He gave me and my wife a new start. We’re running a new para-church organization for barely two months. I will try to become a risk taker the right way this time.

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Which Leadership Approach Are You Taking Today?