Caution Versus Fear

We all know leaders must take risks. Somewhere, it must be included in the definition of a leader.

Leaders take people places they did not think they could go. Together we are able to accomplish more than we would on our own.

Recently, I heard pastor and author, Mark Batterson, express this sentiment by saying, “In leadership, you are only as good as your last risk.”

Some leaders are natural risk takers. While still agreeing with this quote, I am not a personality which loves the unknown. I know I am not alone as a leader who is somewhat risk-adverse. There are many leaders who naturally lean to caution over risk. In many leadership circles, this could be perceived as a bad character trait.

The Bible describes a healthy caution in many ways.

Words like discretion, prudence, and temperance promote this. Admonitions to “Give heed”, “Pay Attention”, and “Stay Alert” promote godly caution.

In fact, there is one huge word in Scripture speaks of over and over which reflects a healthy caution.


  • Wisdom brings with it a necessary caution learned from years in the trenches.
  • It embraces lessons learned from both the fallenness of this world and humanity.
  • Past mistakes and financial over-extensions serve to grow this godly wisdom in us.

No one can argue that wisdom is a bad thing, or that risk is better.

How can we maintain the positive side of wisdom, or caution, without growing stagnant and never stretching ourselves beyond our perceived limits?

The line between wise caution versus fear is razor-thin.


This tipping point is different for each leadership style and personality. We must remain wary of swaying too far towards caution and safety. When we do, we find ourselves walking more in fear, than faith.

Successful leaders must employ wisdom. There is no way around this.

In fact, a risk-taking but unwise leader will likely have a very limited shelf-life.

In leadership, we are never able to rely on only one talent. Even the cautious among us must be willing to embrace dreams bigger than ourselves and our abilities. We can use our wisdom and experience as long as we don’t wield it as the only tool in our toolbox.

This is the picture of a risk-taking, faith-walking leader.

Some leaders never think twice about taking risks. It comes naturally. These men and women may find themselves desiring a bit more caution soaked in wisdom.

Other leaders, like myself, will naturally gravitate toward familiarity, safety, and routine. We must guard against only relying on wisdom or experience. We must be willing to hear and embrace what Jim Collins refers to as a “Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal.” We must dream bigger than our safety net.

Cautious wisdom is a needed trait in a leaders life.

However, every strength has an equal yet opposite weakness.

I do not want to allow godly caution to tip over into fear, thereby hindering me from embracing challenges.

 Photo credit: Rucker Sewell via photopin cc