These days, my favorite bumper sticker is one that reads “Question Authority.” To question authority in the way I suggest isn’t rebellion, it is constructive impertinence. It entails looking at our “leaders” with fresh eyes, to assess their values and trustworthiness.
In this regard, the collective perspective about leadership in America is, to my mind, ill formed. Often, we seem to lose our inner compass around the subject of leadership or people in authority. And so, we’ve come to call people “leaders,” regardless of their leadership competence and values. But, conferring the title of Leader is not the same as the conferring of leadership. In fact, leadership cannot be conferred. Ultimately, it’s our choice that creates authority; and we often forget that. And that’s a major problem.
When we are followers (direct reports, customers, shareholders, patients, members, students, constituents) and we follow indiscrimately, we empower selfish, superficial “leaders.” The lack of accountability we demand from them steals credibility and resources from true leaders everywhere. It also robs us, as followers, of the capacity to be whole, standing to our full height.
I am fortunate to have worked with many true leaders – ones who are not characterized by greed and selfishness – or unresolved psychological issues. They strive to do the right thing; their god is not shareholder value. Each has had the courage to question authority. They are constructively impertinent innovators, and the world benefits from their values.
I believe there is an opportunity here to refocus on more than just leadership in our conversation. There is a glorious element within each of us – like my intuitive photographer’s eye – that brings an inner clarity and illumines truth. From this viewpoint, we are capable of questioning authority – acting powerful and wise.
I invite you to bring your “photographer’s eye” to this conversation –– and to facilitate this dialogue wherever you are. So, who wants to begin? Who constructively will question authority?