On Challenging Authority

A few more notes from the same source which are companion pieces to this one about Challenging the Process (and the Leader) and Where Leadership Begins.

I wish I knew the original source because they deserve the full credit of these fantastic notes:

Challenging the process is often interpreted as a challenge to someone’s leadership or authority. Here’s what could happen:

Your supervisor may confuse this tendency as arrogance or a lack of respect. They may feel or think the following:

  1. If you challenge my idea I feel challenged.
  2. If you challenge my vision I feel challenged.
  3. If you challenge the way I’ve been doing things, I feel challenged.

These are normal feelings but a seasoned leader will be able to separate and make a distinction between having an idea challenged and having a person challenged. A seasoned and experienced leader can take these challenges as objective instead of personal. This is easier said than done.

It’s also worth remembering these vital and extremely sobering truths:

  1. Everything that is in place was originally considered a good idea.
  2. Everything that is in place was once viewed as a revolutionary idea.
  3. Everything that is in place began as a challenge to the status quo.

It’s the person who’s challenging the idea to remember these things so that they can present their challenge in the most objective and data-driven way instead of making the challenge personal and overly-subjective. Again, easier said than done.

Finally, in every organization, regardless of size, there is someone (or a group or team) that are essentially guardians of the “This is the way we do things around here club“.

Your job is to understand the history, the context, and to gain the cultural and organizational bandwidth to challenge the process without losing influence and respect.

And, again… a thriving organization will always Marry the Mission while Dating the Model. This can’t be overstated.


Also published on Medium.