Question Authority

These days, my favorite bumper sticker reads “Question Authority.” To question authority in the way I suggest isn’t rebellion; it is a constructive impertinence. It entails looking with fresh eyes at those who presume authority. It requires assessing their values and trustworthiness and asking questions when what the person in authority requires is self-absorbed, dysfunctional, or otherwise inappropriate.

What’s In a Name?

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 authority, competence, or values. However, conferring the title of leader is not the same as conferring leadership. In fact, leadership cannot be conferred.

Ultimately, it’s our choice to comply that creates authority. We often forget that. And that’s a major problem. Authentic leadership has more to do with the leader’s higher purpose, core human values, wisdom, and doing good.

When we are followers [direct reports, customers, shareholders, patients, members, students, constituents] and follow indiscriminately, we empower selfish, superficial authority. The lack of accountability we demand from them steals credibility and resources from authentic leaders everywhere. It also robs us, as followers, of the capacity to present our potential, standing to our full height.

Authentic Leadership

I am fortunate to have worked with many authentic leaders – uncharacterized by greed and selfishness, unresolved obstructive psychological issues.

Authentic leaders strive to do the right thing; their god is not profits or shareholder value. Each has dared to question authority. They are constructively impertinent innovators, conscious of their higher purpose, and the world benefits from their healthy persistence.

We can refocus on more than just authority in our conversation. There is a glorious element within each of us – like the intuitive photographer’s eye – that brings inner clarity and illuminates truth. From this viewpoint, we can question authority – drawing contrast and 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 will constructively question authority?