Red Flag Alert

Jul 24, 2020


Red flags forewarn of prickly leaders focused on short-term advantage, single-factor decisions, and self-preservation causing eroding support.

Just like sea urchins, people can seem warm and fuzzy, until you get too close. Let me explain… Beachgoers are familiar with the meaning of Beach Warning Flags. Green flags mean conditions are calm and it is safe to swim. Yellow flags signal caution, and a red flag implies high hazard. If you see two red flags the water is very dangerous, and the water is closed to swimming. Purple flags indicate dangerous marine pests are present.

The word pest sounded a little harsh to me, but if you ask my husband, who as a five-year-old grabbed a sea urchin, you can understand why the purple flag might be helpful. Sea urchins look warm and fuzzy from a distance, but their delicate round appearance conceals spines intended to ward off predators. Spines can pierce human skin and cause infection or severe allergic reaction. Some sea urchins can even bite or deliver venom to threats (and five-year-old boys).

Sooooo, just like sea urchins, people can seem warm and fuzzy, until you get too close. Here are a few red flags and what they indicate:

  1. Short-Term Advantage: When a leader endorses the mistreatment of individuals for short-term gain, that is a red flag. Consider a negotiation where the client gets an unfair contract. The deal is closed, but ultimately jeopardizes the long-term relationship.
  2. Single-Factor Decisions: Complex decisions are rarely made based on a single criterion. Research is required, potential consequences analyzed, and new inputs welcomed. When a leader says, “If only this, then all of that!” with no questions asked, it’s a red flag.
  3. Selfish-Preservation: Survival instincts are strong in the animal kingdom and they can be just as strong in the office. When a leader is more concerned about appearances, promotion than the greater good, that is also a red flag.
  4. Eroding Support: Eventually, those in close proximity to a prickly leader will slowly withdraw their support. They will navigate with extreme caution around the individual in order to seek out a safer environment.

Note: Even small red flags should be heeded. Hunches or gut feelings should be taken seriously, then confirmed or discredited. Getting too comfortable with that initial tinge of discomfort is a red flag in and of itself.

Like red flags on the beach, red flags in the office demand a response. A decision must be made. It will take awareness and courage to break from a destructive process or disrespectful culture. Don’t ignore the red flag that eventually becomes two red flags (and it will). Don’t ignore the purple flag that alerts you to pest lurking about, because even apparently warm and fuzzy people can cause damage!

Source: What do all these beach flags mean?

by Michelle Sugerman • Leading Synergies, LLC • © All Rights Reserved

Visit a Synergy Group and discuss the transformative Leadership Development and
Spiritual Growth presented in the Leader's Field Guide. Synergy Group Members
can access this week's Synergy Group Agenda in "My Gym Bag"


Light-Hearted Wisdom for Serious Business


50% Complete