The Driving Force for Intelligent Disobedience

Posted on July 5, 2010

In our Intelligent Disobedience workshops we regularly discuss the risks associated with engaging in acts of intelligent disobedience. Why would a person take those risks? The answers our workshop delegates provide are varied and often personal in nature. Examples include addressing a long standing issue that reaches such a level of frustration that people are compelled to act or to address a pressing need to take action to protect a valued manager. The most common and compelling reason for taking the risks associated with acting via intelligent disobedience however is the need to take action to preserve one’s integrity or moral stance.

“It was simply the right thing to do” is the best expression that describes this motivation. Engaging in extraordinary acts where one’s personal integrity was at stake push the boundaries outward for acceptable actions of intelligent disobedience. True leaders are compelled to ensure the appropriate business outcome is achieved, or to ensure a shortcoming of something viewed as “wrong” was quickly corrected.

These moral stance positions represent the most significant acts of intelligent disobedience conveyed to us by workshop participants. They are inspired by a compelling requirement to “be true to one’s self.” The leader in this mode simply cannot get up and go to work with a feeling of integrity if their objective is not pursued.

This surfaces a healthy question for leaders to ask the person in the mirror – is our hesitance to engage in an act of intelligent disobedience compromising our integrity at work (or at home)?

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