Questioning Leadership

By | October 29, 2014

[October 29, 2014] An American tradition, one that has historically set the citizens of the United States apart from their European ancestors, is the questioning of their leadership. It is not a sign of disrespect but one of a healthy debate about right versus wrong. Political, military, and business leaders are challenged on their decisions and even their personal behavior. I propose that questioning leadership makes for leaders that are more resilient and adaptable, but more importantly, it makes leaders more ethical.

“Cowardice asks the question, ‘Is it safe?’ Expediency asks the question, ‘Is it politic?’ But conscience asks the question, “Is it right?’ And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but because conscience tells one its right.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

People want their leaders to be good at leading and they want them to be good people. We will always have naysayers and narcissists who cannot be satisfied with any leader; questioning their leaders only for selfish reasons. Yet, those who crave leadership and know its value, unknowingly make those leaders better and more open in the decision-making process, while at the same time they are getting a glimpse of the complexity of open leadership. By the many individual actions taken by those who question leaders, the sum of those actions directly influence the ethical and moral foundation of their leadership.

I’ve found that leaders often fail to tell us how they came to a decision. The how – the process – is important because it can tell us about the core values held by that leader. It can tell us about who that leader has surrounding himself with and whether they are truly good and ethical as well. Processes can be corrupted through biased influences, greed, and ignorance. When people question their leaders, this decision-making process can be more transparent so that everyone knows how things get done. Some things must be kept secret yet the methodology of the process can often be made available.

“The key to successful leadership today is influence, not authority.” – Kenneth Blanchard

Questioning leadership makes it more difficult for leaders to lead and that is okay. The 18th Century model of closed-loop leadership is outdated for today’s modern societies. Old models of leadership are based on authority. New leadership is based on influence. Only by questioning our leaders can we be sure that their leadership is grounded in the proper values and their influence is both selfless and ethical.


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Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

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