That struck me as wholly subjective and therefore rather unusual in a legal document. The sentiment is admirable, surely. Be reasonable, sign this document. But how can we possibly know that what is reasonable to us is reasonable to others? If you think about it carefully, reasonableness must be the most subjective of terms. The Oxford English Dictionary describes it thus: “The quality of being reasonable or rational; rationality or The fact or quality of being amenable to reason, or of acting or thinking in a sensible manner.”

What is the point of this? Well, reasonableness can be contentious in a workplace or team environment. After all, what is a perfectly reasonable work request or directive to you might be considered completely irrational by someone else. What you think is a reasonable response to a work request or directive also depends very much on the ear of the beholder. That is to say unless you take the trouble of providing context and define what you consider reasonable, sensible and rational. Otherwise, you might be in for a surprise. We cannot assume that our reasonableness is universal. What is perfectly rational and sensible in one team, is frowned upon in another. What is reasonable in one culture is irrational in another. Workplaces are no exception.

Intelligent Disobedience involves expressing your best ideas, AND encouraging the expression of the best ideas of others to gain the greatest level of understanding. Those who embrace Intelligent Disobedience would not stop at the mediocre level of understanding represented by ”reasonableness”, but would engage in the discussions required to reach a deeper more substantial position, and provide a more optimal bit of direction.

– Contributed by Marjolein Towler

The Bigger Picture of Engaging in Intelligent Disobedience

Leadership requires an extraordinary degree of skill and integrity – the ability to know when to intervene, when to teach, when to coach, when to provide feedback and in what venue to provide all of this. Leadership requires very deliberate and thoughtful consideration of those you are trying to lead – versus simply manage. The leader is more of an artist.

And what makes a good artist? Well first, there are those indescribable creative juices flowing from their very being onto the canvas. Inspiration, flashes of insight, conceptual models taking shape with artfully crafted brushworks. To be a good leader you need to draw on sometimes highly personal gut level decisions – when for example in a meeting to directly challenge a powerful senior leader whose new production changes will entirely throw off your budget allocations, or when to tell your highly talented new hire to back off on their new and risky approach for a technical solution. We have to assess our own risk profile against the potential gains to push back with these key business colleagues. The best leaders take these risks – and succeed – on a regular basis.

One of the keys to doing this is to realize that we all look at the world through different lenses. We all have our own truth, and that truth differs from person to person. Understanding that the world is viewed via different lenses, and not just yours, is instrumental in conducting the sensitive conversations we have discussed here, and doing so successfully. Gather a “full set of pictures” through the many “lenses” people bring to the table and rich possibilities of how to proceed can come into focus. So, next time you feel the need to impulsively jump in and state your position, examine it from another person’s point of view.Intelligent Disobedience is NOT about being silent, or holding back your opinions, it is just the opposite – it encourages us to speak up. However, it also encourages us to understand that our approach is not the only way, or the only view to a situation. The Intelligently Disobedient leader does jump in, but only after seeking to look at a situation through the lenses of others in addition to her own.

– Contributed by Elaine Krantz