Research* just came out that tests the MIT (Male Idiot Theory). Really; I’m not kidding. Scientists researched data from the Darwin Awards and found that of the 318 cases, 88.7% were men.
The Darwin Awards is a series of books and a website dedicated to people who take themselves out of the human gene pool by killing or sterilizing themselves by doing something stupid. A prime example are the terrorists who mailed a bomb with insufficient postage but with the correct return address, and then forgot what it was when it was returned to them. They opened the package and blew themselves up.
One theory for the unbelievable behaviors that the authors cite (besides the fact that men are just idiots) is that men tend to be greater risk takers.
So let’s think a minute about risk-taking.
Leaders do need to be risk-takers and the best leaders usually are the greatest risk-takers. Taking risks inspires coworkers to take risks, and as all economists will tell us, greater risk, when successful, brings greater reward.
How can we as leaders inspire our coworkers to take greater risks?
By supplying two necessary qualities to the people who look to you for leadership: security and inspiration.
Attachment theory tells us that people look for closeness to others who give them comfort. Think of a child that will not stray far from his or her mother.
But comfort alone will not challenge others to reach beyond. Security must be accompanied with a challenge to explore.
Inspiration provides the challenge to explore and take the risks that we all need to in order to achieve outstanding results. The combination of these two factors provides the atmosphere to help our coworkers produce more than anyone ever thought possible.
How Can We Do That?
Here is a short list of actions that will provide a safe base and a challenge to inspire those around us to greatness.
1. Stay calm in the midst of the storm—during struggles people will look to you for security.
2. Accept those around you and truly care for their needs—People will feel secure if they feel accepted.
3. Listen and ask questions—The best leaders always are the best listeners.
4. Share a powerful vision—The great leader always can inspire vision through great communication skills.
5. Center on the positive—Success breeds success and great leaders remember that and harness its power.
6. Encourage risk-taking—People will respond if they feel safe and are challenged to take risks.
7. Harness the power of intrinsic motivation—Studies have shown that people are much more motivated to work hard and take risks for things that they enjoy much more than they are motivated by financial gain.
If you want to help your coworkers achieve more, provide the security they need to feel safe and the inspiration to take more risk. Hopefully all of us will keep swimming in the gene pool for a while.
*B. A. D. Lendrem, D. W. Lendrem, A. Gray, J. D. Isaacs. The Darwin Awards: sex differences in idiotic behaviour. BMJ, 2014; 349 (dec10 20)