There are times you think you know about the challenges that lie ahead for you, only to be surprised by things that you’ve never thought of before. For instance, shortly after I was elected as Governor of Maine, I asked for a briefing about two of the biggest emergencies I might encounter while performing the job I had just been elected to hold. Those potential emergencies were an incident at the state’s only nuclear power plant or an unwieldy riot by prisoners at the state’s penitentiary. For both of those scenarios, I was informed about the potential risks, and it gave me an opportunity to think about preparing for them, should either happen.
While neither of those risks—thankfully—came to fruition on my watch, the worst flooding to hit Maine in 50 years did, and it was an experience I will never forget. The loss of property and impact to lives in my home state was a challenge for all of us to endure, but that experience brought some powerful lessons that stay with me today.
Risk and reality go hand in hand and neither can or should be separated from the other. Both can inform and empower people to make the decisions that need to be made. Many times those decisions can be very difficult and extremely unpopular, but if they are made with solid facts and strong insights, those decisions can be seen over time as tough calls being made at the right time.
Managing risks in volatile climates is not easy, but it is what leadership is all about. That’s just one of the many traits that link entrepreneurs with the CEOs of notable worldwide enterprises. While both categories of business leaders focus on the ever-important bottom line, they also have to keep their eyes opened to the other unknown threats and challenges that can disrupt or derail their operations in an instant.
Market changes, geopolitical shifts, natural hazards, cybersecurity threats, and more evolve every day, and every leader of an enterprise has to be ready for anything and everything in order to keep the “Open for Business” sign burning brightly in their front window every day.
In today’s marketplace, the risks are more dynamic than ever before, which is why understanding risk is even more critical today. As important as it is to be informed about the challenges that may occur on your watch, it is the ability to adapt, respond, and recover that enables you to lead effectively. If we allow those known and unknown risks to prevent us from taking the next steps forward, we will fail to innovate, make the next big leap in technology, or explore the full potential of a market or our own personal abilities. Rather, when we are informed of our risks, we can take the steps necessary to fully realize our potential in all of its forms.
This issue of the BHQ explores some of the facets of risk that are being used to make our businesses, markets, and communities more enterprising and informed places. By understanding how these tools work, we all can gain a better handle on how risks can inform and empower our future going forward. That’s information that makes the ultimate difference in decision making.