The Role of Personal Risk-Taking in Effective Leadership
AbstractThree studies address the role of personal risk-taking in effective leadership. The first study analyzed questionnaire data which detailed behavior of both effective and ineffective military combat leaders. This study indicates that effective combat leaders were judged to demonstrate more personally endangering acts than were ineffective combat leaders. The second study investigated personal risk-taking in leadership within a large urban fire department. Using interview techniques similar to those used in the first study, results obtained indicate that-effective leaders in fire combat were judged to show more personal bravery (i.e., physical risk-taking) than ineffective leaders. Thus, results for fire combat leaders were nearly identical to the results for military combat leaders. The third study included a separate set of data for current fire service leaders' judged fire combat leadership performance and their rated personal risk-taking. Results obtained in this study indicate that leaders judged by their superiors as personally accepting physical risks were also judged as more effective combat leaders. The personal risk-taking factor made a significant contribution towards explaining the variance in leadership effectiveness even when other leadership factors were controlled for statistically. A second analysis, using data collected from the leaders themselves, indicates that time in the role and job satisfaction are significant predictors of personal risk-taking behavior in fire service leaders. It was concluded that the willingness to expose onself to danger is associated with effective leadership in potentially life-threatening situations and that factors found in studies of motivation in organizations may account for such acts of personal bravery by leaders.