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Great leaders take "calculated" risk

Binu T Paul
Friday, December 3, 2010
Binu T Paul
Taking risks is not necessarily about dealing with uncertainty, which most of us tend to believe. Risk is an opportunity, an opportunity to grow, an opportunity to prove ourselves. And being a leader, a person needs to find out the right kind of people to take risks with, this is what Sridhar Jayanthi, Vice President of Engineering and Head of India Operations, McAfee truly believes and follows.

After working for 14 to 15 years in the U.S., when Sridhar moved back to India, his boss decided to take a risk with him. Though Sridhar had not been employed in India before, his boss took a chance with him and decided to start McAfee in India. That was a risk that somebody took with Sridhar, which proved to be a turning point in his whole career.

But why do people take risks, while there are alternatives? “According to my own personal belief, all leaders inherently do take calculated risks all the time. Sometimes it is according to the nature of the person and sometimes it’s the nature of the position he is in that makes the person take risks,” says Sridhar.

As a person, a leader may take a lot of risks, but coming back to the organization, there are certain risks that he is not ready to take. Sridhar, who has worked for startups pretty much his whole career, has not done a startup in life, and this, in his own words, is one of the biggest risks in the industry that he hasn’t taken yet.

Inherently even though there is so much of entrepreneurial spirit in India, risk is still not a very common thing within organizations. Somebody who is an out of box thinker, quite often is subdued, telling him, “that’s totally crazy, you can’t do such crazy things.” So when somebody decides to start up a new company, that’s actually a huge risk that one can take, because we all have come from a background of conformity, says Sridhar.

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