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Leaders Must Be Comfortable Taking Risks in Relationships

Graphic Showing a Boring MeetingNearly every relationship starts with courage. To meet someone and get to know him or her requires vulnerability. To take relationships to deeper levels requires even more vulnerability, exposing yourself to another person.

Related: Increase Employee Engagement [Checklist]

How many first dates are never planned because people are too afraid of rejection? How many business relationships remain superficial because the interested parties fear crossing the line? How many friendships are defined by boundaries imposed to hold others at a safe distance?

Relationships are risky. They do not come with guarantees. They are subject to the whims of each person, and to the arbitrary changes in life we experience. Not all relationships will last. That's not necessarily a bad thing.

The safest thing would be to avoid relationships altogether. By doing so, you will never take a personal risk. You will never be rejected. You will not have to be vulnerable, and you will not be hurt by another person.

Sometimes, this is exactly what we do if we've been recently or badly burned by the loss of a relationship. We retreat. We go into self-preservation mode. We tell ourselves we don't need anybody.  We put up defensive barriers designed to keep others at a safe distance.

Of course, we then yearn for relationships. We are wired to be connected with other people. When we try to live without others in our lives, we get lonely.

The loneliness itself makes us feel weak and vulnerable. But the truth is, the desire for others to be a part of our lives is nothing to be ashamed of. When we connect with others, we give and receive parts of ourselves that we just can't optimize on our own.

As with all fear, taking the next step requires courage. Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage means to operate even in the face of fear. When you see a possibility that inspires you to take a relationship risk, courage will empower you to take the bold step needed to get the outcome you desire.

This is true in forming new relationships and in repairing relationships that are not quite what you want them to be. The fear of being vulnerable could prevent us from taking the next step. The courage to act even in the face of that fear could lead us to improved relationships. It is an either/or choice.

You get to decide. Relationships involve two people, but what happens in those relationships often is determined by one person. You can determine what will happen in your relationships.

Don't let fear decide for you.

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 Editor's Note: this blog was originally published in 2013 and has been recently updated.