3 Ways Leaders Can Cure Complacency


I spent over twenty years working as both an FBI undercover and counterintelligence agent.

My job was to identify foreign spies who were operating in the United States, find out what they were stealing and stop them, assess whether they possessed the type of information the U.S. needed, and if they did, find ways to persuade them to work for our government.

I share the lessons I learned about surviving in an environment of deception, hostility, and fear.

Coincidentally, these same conditions also exist in business and life.

If you are going to survive in today’s world, you will need to learn how to navigate through the smoke and mirrors that create confusion in investments, marketing, and relationships.

Lead Yourself

The first person we need to lead is ourselves. We do this by leading with personal strength rather than a plan. Powerful leaders are empowered from within.

Plans fail because people are not predictable and we have very little control over our environment. Survival depends upon flexibility, breaking through barriers, and accepting new challenges.

Complacency will lead to extinction.        

FBI defensive tactics trained us to always lead with our strong side. I’m right-handed and both my right hand and leg are stronger than my left. We were taught us that if we lead with our strong side,  it’s easier to stay on balance when confronted with the unknown and we’re better poised to react in a way that could save our life.

We are more vulnerable when we’re approached from a weakness or blind spot.

Leading From Strength

Instead of sending us to the gym everyday to build up the muscles on our weak side, we spent our time learning how to lead most efficiently from our place of strength. This meant that we had to know our weaknesses and manage them as best we could while relying upon our strengths for survival.

Complacency is toxic because it is a stealth attitude that creeps up on us without our awareness. It makes us vulnerable because we’ve unconsciously let our guard down and are no longer alert to the nature of threats that surround aspects of business or aspects and life.

When this happens, we’re no longer operating from our center, from that place of strength that gives us balance. Complacency can often be a subconscious need to re-evaluate our goals, mission, or vision.

Stop Complacency

Here are three ways to prevent you from becoming complacent in your business, leadership role, and life:

1. Create an Inner Circle

We all have an inner circle of close friends, family, and others we interact with on a regular basis. To maximize their impact on your life, ask yourself whether they are the right people with whom you want closer interaction.

By forging your inner circle with intention, you can collect people who reflect back your full potential.

  • Collect people who see the best in you and believe in your dreams for yourself.
  • Eliminate people who take advantage of your generous nature.
  • Discard those who ask for more than their fair share.
  • Protect yourself and fill your life with people whose values match your own.
  • Surround yourself with people who accept your gifts, in return.

2. Find a Mentor

There are few people more valuable than mentors. They should be inspirational; more importantly, they need to be able to see and accept you for who you really are.

They need to encourage you to keep charging ahead, keep chasing your dreams, and keep making plans.

Mentoring fills us with hope.

Fill in the following sentences:

  • A great mentor in my life is ______________________
  • I could be a mentor to___________________________
  • I am inspired by _______________________________

3. Look for Adventure

Adventure is about taking risks, large and small, and this requires enthusiasm. It means stepping out into the unknown to discover your full potential.

Staying open to new experiences is a daily adventure because you don’t know what you’ll find in those new experiences. Maybe you’ll discover that you want to do something different, that you want to write a mission statement, or have a new vision for your life.

Complacency and adventure cannot co-exist.

Fill in the following sentences:

  • It would be fun to _____________________
  • I would like to try _____________________
  • I would step out of my comfort zone by ___________________

You must learn to lead yourself before you can lead others and this can only happened if you are empowered from within. The world provides enough deception and isolation—don’t worry about being afraid of the unknown. It’s the complacency that will kill you.

When was the last time you thought about the quality of your inner circle? How are you a mentor to others? What was your last adventure?


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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

LaRae Quy is former FBI Agent and Founder at Your Best Adventure
She helps clients explore the unknown and discover the hidden truth in self & others
Email | LinkedIn | Twitter | Facebook | Web | Blog

Image Sources: debtonation.org

7 responses to “3 Ways Leaders Can Cure Complacency

  1. What a great and compelling read! So often we are encouraged to strengthen our weaknesses instead of leading from our strengths. Thanks for offering some thought-provoking insights. I think I’ll share this post with my own leadership team.


  2. Hi Garrick

    I’m so glad you liked the post! We spend too much time trying to strengthen our weaknesses when we really to be spending that time leading with our strengths. Plans are good but when a plan goes awry, we need to be a leader and step forward utilizing our personal strengths.

    Let me know how your team responds!


  3. Thanks, Tina. I think you’ll find the tips very practical . . .


  4. I love reading your posts here and on other sites. The fact that you were an FBI agent makes your writing exciting and compelling. What I can’t figure out is why I (and other readers) keep trusting while knowing that you were a spy! Logically we should question what you say after learning that you were once a spy. Instead, knowing of your previous occupation makes it all the more exciting to hear what you have to say. I guess it’s human nature that keeps us poised to hear more.

    And then reading that you later studied theology — this seems diametrically opposed to your prior line of work! I would love to know how these divergent lifestyles came together for you and to learn why and when you realized that you could use what you learned as an FBI agent to empower others in a positive way.

    This was a great post. Whenever I read your posts I come away with a “boost”. Will think more about leading with my strengths. When feeling powerless I often forget that I HAVE strengths. Thank you for the reminder.


    • I loved your comment! All of the examples I use come from my own experiences, as an undercover and counterintelligence agent – I just change the name or omit specifics so the targets of my investigation would not recognize themselves.

      The reason readers trust my writing is because I come from a place of authenticity. Believe it or not, undercover agents usually fail because they are not authentic – they try to be someone they are not. I can slap on any name, but when it comes to personal interactions, the game is up if I can’t be honest about who I am and what I’m about. And that is all undercover work is – taking on another name so the surface changes, but not what is underneath.

      I’m coming out with a book this September called “Secrets of a Strong Mind” and I use successful undercover work as an example of how to be authentic and honest . . .

      I found theology to be a natural transition because both FBI agents and spiritual directors are interested in pulling back the layers to expose the truth.

      Stay in touch and so glad you liked the post!


      • Thank you. I will keep my eye out for that book!


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