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Intelligent Disobedience – A Leadership Lesson from my Son

Where is it written that boys can’t get their ears pierced?

Have your kids ever challenged you on “family rules” and you realized they were right?  It’s damn disconcerting, isn’t it?!

For my son, he didn’t understand, or agree with, the idea that it was okay for my daughters to pierce their ears but it wasn’t okay for him.  Alright so this challenge happened back in the 90s, but it was a leadership lesson I never forgot.

As a co-leader of our family, I wanted my children to feel confident in asserting themselves to challenge rules when it was warranted.  So, I had to be open to hearing them out and sometimes retire rules that no longer made sense. After all, as my son informed me, the cool kid who worked at McDonald’s had his ear pierced. The times were changing, and I had to catch up.

More recently, when leading a team at a growing start-up, I was reminded of this lesson. During the interview process for one of the roles I was hiring for, I joined a candidate’s second interview. After a few rounds of your standard interview questions, I asked “What is your ideal company culture?”

The candidate’s response floored me, and I hired him on the spot.

I want to work for a culture that appreciates intelligent disobedience.” 

You see, as a leader I’m not looking for “yes men or women” because an organization can’t grow with a culture that puts people-pleasing and conformity above common sense. So, when building a team, I look for candidates who are inquisitive, yet collaborative and respectful. This helps create a culture where people feel supported if they need to speak up about what is wrong or what we could be doing better. We all need to keep up with the times, not satisfied with the status quo.

As leaders, we must coach and mentor employees to assert their voice confidently and judiciously, so they’re not only heard, but their views are respected. We need to create cultures where people are encouraged to look critically at existing procedures and policies, because in the long run, intelligent disobedience will only make our organizations more constructive and successful.

So, did I let my son pierce his ears? Of course! How could I teach my kids about equal rights and not let him join his sisters? And, as a parent, you know when to pick your battles.  But, that’s a whole other article!

Interested in learning more about leading intelligent disobedience and cultivating a constructive company culture? Let’s chat — I’d love to coach you individually or work with your team.

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2018-10-26T14:59:49+00:00