‘Speaking Truth to Power’

Berrett-Koehler Publishers has a blog devoted to lists, as they say, “on just about everything that matters, by authors who know…”.  Just the other day, the blog drew on the thinking of Ira Chaleff, who works on the other side of Leadership, namely Followership.

Chaleff  “believes that part of being a good follower, and a hallmark of true followership, is to stand up and challenge our leaders when we disagree with their principles, motivations, or actions.”

Here’s the list of five good reasons to challenge the hierarchy, or to ‘speak truth to power’:

1) Because “boss” is just what you call him or her. Underneath the title is a human being. All human beings are fallible, including you. You’re not challenging the boss’s position, just the blind spot. Helping each other see the limitations in our thinking or the blind spots in our actions helps each of us to be better. [emphasis added]

2) Because you believe in the mission of the organization and want it to succeed. If the boss, or the boss’ boss’ boss is contemplating an action based on an inaccurate assessment of the situation, your speaking up can prevent setbacks to the mission. This is good, right?
[emphasis added]

3) Because you have the courage to live by your values. If we compromise our values enough we cease being proud of who we are. You want to be proud of yourself, don’t you? Living with integrity takes courage.
[emphasis added]

4) Because no one else is going to do it. We wait for others to step in to the line of fire so that we can piggy-back on them to lessen any negative consequences of speaking up. That’s a problem — everyone is waiting for someone else to step up first, so no one does. The ship goes down.
[emphasis added]

5) Because it earns you respect from both your colleagues and your bosses. Your boss may not like hearing your challenge, but as long as he or she is not clinically paranoid, a strong boss will respect you for speaking up. So will your colleagues. You might even get promoted. If you do, remember to be a courageous boss.
[emphasis added]