Intelligently Disobedient Succession Planning

Posted on September 30, 2010

Common advice for a growth minded professional is to ensure they work with someone who can fill their role, so their management team is more comfortable with moving the leader to roles of greater responsibility. Sound advice, of course. The ambitious leader who engages in Intelligent Disobedience and is recognized for the resulting accomplishments has different shoes to backfill when they strive for that “next role.” In addition to the operational skills and managerial knowledge, will the person chosen as a successor be able to meet the Intelligent Disobedience expectation, and do so within reasonable risk boundaries? Here are a few questions to consider when looking for that “capable successor:”

  • Does the potential successor view “managerial rulebooks” and process guides as references for HOW to do something or as references to say what you explicitly CAN’T do?

    The Intelligently Disobedient leader will watch the environment, determine a course of action, and use “rulebooks” to see if they prevent them from taking that action.

  • How does the potential successor prioritize compliance with the norm versus commitment to achieving new and improved outcomes?

    The Intelligently Disobedient leader will place commitment to improved outcomes well above compliance. These leaders do their homework to understand the implications of changing something with a “how can we do it?” mindset, versus a “why can’t we do it?” thought process. (Legal and regulatory limits apply however.)

  • Does the potential successor discuss PERSONAL versus BUSINESS risk with any regularity, and if they do, is it in the appropriate balance?

    The Intelligently Disobedient leader is mindful that personal risk is part of moving a business forward and faces it proactively and with confidence.

  • Does the potential successor enjoy their time at work?

    The Intelligently Disobedient leader demonstrates passion for change in the workplace because they believe in what they are doing, and believe they can make a difference.

These questions can help a leader decide if a succession plan is appropriate…in fact, it also can help the leader assess their own situation as well. Are you in the appropriate mindset to engage in Intelligent Disobedience? If not, how could you get there?

Intelligent Disobedience Leadership provides workshops, coaching and consulting with a focus on courageous leadership through intelligent disobedience. We can help you and your teams design a community of practice which leverages constructive “intelligent disobedience.” For further information, email us at