Under-the-Radar Leadership



Note: Before you read this, please know that this is a blameless article for anyone out there who has kept quiet about something.


Believe me, I’ve been there, myself, and have made huge mistakes in my career. I had to start from scratch in so many ways and I know the landmines that might await you. That’s why Rebecca Coda and I wrote Escaping the School Leader’s Dunk Tank. We wanted to push against the status quo politics in education and write something that would be extremely helpful for all educators when it comes to studying adversity and adversarial conditions in our schools.


Being an educator is incredibly wonderful, but it can also be extremely political.


I read an amazing article today by Julia Azari, entitled: “It’s the Institutions, Stupid: The Real Roots of America’s Political Crisis.” What it taught me is that sometimes, we find our leaders or any educator, for that matter, who chooses to fly under the political radar. Azari reminded me that many politicians make sure that they always vote their party line platform, even if they disagree with the way they decide to vote on a matter, so they do not lose potential re-election.


School leaders and educators sometimes sit by the sidelines because it is easier for their career and livelihood to not make the tough decisions. They become paper-pushers, rubber stampers and all of this is typically done for a retirement that awaits them at the finish line of their career or a promotion to a new position that will increase their weekly take home salary.


Yet, workplace bullying, stepping on others to get that promotion and waging all-out war against our colleagues take place each and every day in almost every school setting on the planet. Point to a place where there isn’t adversity and that is OK for now (and that is GREAT, really, for now), but realize that it might just be looming and coming to a theater near you, someday, and we need to be prepared. Our colleagues are counting on us to do something incredibly creative in our jobs, to stick up for those who need our help and to stick our necks out so others can be defended under our watch.


Please join me and Rebecca in pushing against the elephant in every school house, in every executive session, in every board of education meeting and in every classroom . . .


“because our students are counting on us.”

At the end of the day, I would ask that you reflect on the following questions as you go about your day-to-day duties . . .

  • Have you kept quiet about something for fear of “offending” someone?

  • Have you kept quiet about something for fear of jeopardizing your relationship with a supervisor or even possibly losing your job?

  • Have you failed to stand up for what is right for fear of pressure or because of other’s expectations of you or because your reputation must be squeaky clean or a new position that you are hoping to be promoted to is just around the corner?

  • Have you found yourself keeping quiet about something so you do not ruffle any feathers or ripple any waters?

Under-the-radar leadership is what I call it.


But, just remember this . . .


You can stand up.

Don't worry about what could happen.

Be strong.

Be intentional.

Be that elephant-in-the-room-pusher.



















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Rick Jetter, Ph.D.

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