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VF Corp CEO Says Leadership Success Comes from Taking Risks

“Risk” is a scary word for many people, but not for Steve Rendle. He’s the CEO of VF Corporation and he says “you need to be willing to take some risks” if you want to get leadership assignments.

That kind of thinking guided Rendle’s career decisions and explains how he rose to the top job of VF (VFC), the giant retailer known for its Lee Jeans, Timberland footwear, and North Face outdoor apparel.

Rendle tells the story of why he left “a very comfortable job” in 1999 to join the North Face, which at the time was struggling and losing money. “Many of my friends questioned why I was doing that,” he recalls. “But I was willing to take a leap of faith based on something I was deeply passionate about that put me into a position to learn, grow and ascend to where I am today.”

He learned this lesson early on as a kid growing up in Spokane, Washington. He credits the leader of his Boy Scouts troop who challenged him in his approach to rock climbing. “It was really that push and the words of encouragement to push myself to become uncomfortable and to depend on a team,” he explains, adding, “It had a profound impact on who I am today.” In fact, Rendle says he frequently tells this story at leadership meetings at VF. The message to his managers is that risking-taking is “where great breakthrough performance can come from.”

Watch the video above for more of our conversation with Rendle.