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Challenge Thyself, too

Creatively challenging another is a delicate act that must itself be uncorrupted. In relationships we are prone to find fault with the other before examining ourselves, and the leader-follower relationship is no exception. Both the leader and follower who blame […]

Leaders Who Won’t Challenge Their Leaders

One of the most vexing and common problems for followers is finding themselves working for someone who should, but will not, challenge his or her own leader. If a leader two or more levels up from a follower is exerting […]

Leaders Who Have Other Agendas

New leaders can bring other agendas to their position. Old leaders can develop new agendas while in their position. Other agendas are not in themselves bad; they may even be helpful. If other agendas motivate leaders to excel in their […]

Newly Elevated Leaders

At different stages in their careers, leaders are prone to different behaviors that courageous followers may need to challenge. Leaders who are new to their positions naturally require special help from followers who have been with the organization longer and […]

Personal Issues

We may experience acute discomfort about challenging leaders when destructive behavior occurs in their personal lives. But distinctions between personal and public life are not very useful when behavior violates the values of the organization and the society in which […]

Leaders Who Scream

Another behavior that must be challenged is chronic screaming by a leader. Explosive anger is intimidating and tears the fabric of relationships. Things get done, but at a very heavy price. The virtue in leaders who scream is their passion […]


There are various attitudes and behaviors specific to individual leaders that, if present, need challenging. Arrogance is high on this list. Arrogant leadership is toxic to an organization. It looks like strength but is a debilitating weakness. If you have […]

Challenging the Use of Language

Courageous followers are alert to the language of leaders as well as to their deeds. Language both shapes and reveals the beliefs underlying deeds. Pejorative words thrown about are predictive of the stones that may follow. The use of derogatory […]

Challenging Abuse Early

In addition to challenging policies, we may have to challenge behavior that violates our values and undermines the common purpose. Corruption of values doesn’t occur all at once. Usually, a series of small departures from an individual’s values leads to […]

The Duty to Obey

If we have courageously but unsuccessfully challenged a leader’s policies, where do we stand in relation to implementing them? The policies may be different from those we would have chosen; they may be fraught with risks with which we are […]

Overcoming Groupthink

It is not only leaders who need to be challenged; sometimes a courageous follower must challenge the thinking of the whole group. Some groups are fractious and need help focusing on the common purpose. Other groups are cohesive; the members […]

Avoiding Knee-Jerk Rejection

Some people automatically reject new ideas or feedback. It doesn’t matter what the idea is, it gets rebuffed. This is a version of the “not invented here” syndrome. People who have been around awhile may be quick to say, “We’ve […]

Challenging Indirectly

We can’t always create an environment in which upward feedback or input is readily accepted. Sometimes a leader feels threatened by direct confrontation or doesn’t value participatory processes. We may need to find ways that engage rather than alarm the […]

Giving a Leader Input

Feedback is given in response to actions taken. Input advises on actions being contemplated. Leaders do not need to solicit widespread input on every decision they make. But it is respectful and useful to solicit input from those who have […]

Giving a Leader Feedback

We need to give leaders feedback with the same care we prepare them for it. Poorly given feedback can be received as an attack rather than a caring act. The leader may strike back defensively, dissuading the follower from giving […]

Preparing a Leader for Feedback

Feedback is the great mechanism of self-discovery. We take an action, watch its effects, and learn what works and what doesn’t. When we are young this mechanism operates brilliantly. As we develop and form our self-image, we start screening out […]

Appropriate Behavior

Leaders occupy their positions because of some constellation of strengths. Many of these strengths are of great value to the organization. Other strengths may not be those the organization needs at this time, at least not in the intensity the […]

The Courage to Challenge

Followers who provide robust support for leaders are in a strong position to challenge them when their actions threaten the common purpose. Of the two broad areas in which we must be willing to challenge a leader—behavior and policies—the most […]