Gut Check: Are You Flying Under The Radar?

January 22, 2016 Vince Molinaro


Gut Check: Are You Flying Under The Radar?

One of the things that drives me crazy is a leader who likes to fly “under the radar.”

I’m sure you know whom I’m talking about.  These are the leaders who attend meetings but never say anything because they are afraid to ruffle feathers. They spend the entire meeting with their head always nodding in agreement, while inside they may be disagreeing with everything.

The “under the radar” leader could also be someone who just focuses on his or her own business. Or they may have a perspective, but encourage a colleague to express it. The issue gets put on the table, but any negative reaction is felt by someone else.

This isn’t real leadership.

Leadership is a messy endeavour at best. You can certainly stay under the radar as you watch other more opinionated leaders suffer the slings and arrows of conflict and criticism especially as they challenge their colleagues, express disagreement with others, or question the status quo. But make no mistake, go undetected isn’t leading.

Want a better name for this kind of leader? How about “being a wimp?”

You would think that most leaders would not engage in this type of behavior because they know it doesn’t ultimately help their organizations. From my experience, I find some of these folks are simply conflict averse.  The mere thought of challenging someone else gives these leaders a sick feeling in their gut.

Others have an overwhelming need to be liked. They would rather avoid upsetting the apple cart for fear that others won’t like them. As I’ve said before, being liked as a leader is overrated.

Some leaders are purely politically driven. They only think about “numero uno” and refuse to express what they truly believe because they fear having being labelled as a dissident, trouble maker, whiner or complainer. So, they become adept at telling people what they think they want to hear, rather than the straight reality of what is going on.

This is a very selfish way to lead.

There are some exceptions to this perspective that I’ve seen in my work with leaders. For some, flying under the radar can be a pure survival strategy. They may be in a highly toxic environment working for a bad boss who tolerates no dissenting points of view. In that instance, flying under the radar can be a good coping strategy, but only for so long.

If you are flying under the radar, you really need to stop and ask yourself why? Have you lost the energy to lead? Are you burnt out – just trying to get by? Or are you playing politics? Whatever the reason, understand that you aren’t truly leading.

This week’s Gut Check question asks: are you flying under the radar?


The second edition of The Leadership Contract is now available in hardcover and a Kindle edition.



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