Promote Constructive Insubordination

Quote of the Week

“Honest disagreement is often a good sign of progress.”
— Mahatma Gandhi

Promote Constructive Insubordination

by James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner

Leaders have to be able to promote, demonstrate, and support constructive insubordination. It’s been said that ‘if both of us are always agreeing, then one of us is redundant,’ and this is no more true today. When everyone agrees, especially for the sake of getting along, we’re unlikely to achieve the best results.

We can’t afford to surround ourselves with ‘yes’ people. We need to have people willing to support us and also willing to voice their disagreements. Others will see issues that we don’t see – perhaps never even thought about – and may even come up with a better solution than our own.

We have to make it possible for people to argue with each other – up, down, in, out, and sideways – if we are to realize the best from today’s diverse and talented workforce. We shouldn’t strive to win every skirmish, but instead endeavor to unite in our decisions so that we can win battles that matter most. The legacy that comes from difficult conversations will be far more creative and sustaining than ones that come from people who always see eye to eye. (Kouzes & Posner, 2006, p. 68-70)

Reference: Kouzes, J.M., & Posner, B.Z., (2006). A leader’s legacy. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Reprinted with permission from the OSU Leadership Center, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210, (614) 292-3114,

Coaching Call to Action

Where in your work do you always get agreement? This week ask for disagreement and see what you can learn about the situation, others and yourself.