Book Excerpt – Wise Leaders Value Intelligent Disobedience
Intelligent Disobedience does not imply that the authority figure is acting immorally, though that case certainly occurs. The individual with formal authority may simply be wrong for a variety of reasons.
There are many other well- intentioned reasons that a person with authority may ask us to do something that is wrong for the situation. By disobeying the specific order, we are not only making an a attempt to respond appropriately to the situation, we are also saving authorities from doing things that would harm them or their reputation.
In my coaching and consulting work, I have repeatedly encountered senior executives who are mortified at what they discover is being done “because you said so.” They may make a casual comment that is mistaken as a directive to change an operating procedure or a policy. It makes no sense. It makes operations more difficult. It costs more money. Yet, it is being done because the authority figure let out a momentary thought or frustration that was given unexpected weight—the weight that authority carries in a culture that has not consciously countered this tendency. These are not even demands by authority—yet they are implemented.
Mature authority figures recognize that having people around them capable of and willing to use Intelligent Disobedience is in their self-interest, as well as in the group’s interest. They look for this ability in people they invite into their inner circle. The very best leaders promote the development of this capacity in all of their people.