Why We Need Intelligent Disobedience in Corporate America

by Kelly Eisenhardt
Apr 21, 2016 12:30 PM ET

Empowering employees to speak up when they see something that is wrong or when they are asked to do something that might cause harm is critical to the survival of all organizations. Each employee needs to internalize their own personal accountability for the actions they take under executive leadership.

Ira Chaleff is the founder of the International Leadership Association’s Followership Learning Community, chairman emeritus of the nonpartisan Congressional Management Foundation, and an adjunct professor at Georgetown University - where his courseCourageous Followership is part of the core curriculum for staff. He is also an author, speaker, workshop presenter, and innovative thinker on the beneficial use of power between those who are leading those who are following in any given situation. His latest book, Intelligent Disobedience: Doing Right When What You’re Told To Do Is Wrong breaks new ground exploring why we obey and how we might equip ourselves with the skills to resist inappropriate orders and find better and ethical ways to achieve goals.

What is intelligent disobedience and what does it look like in practice?

Intelligent disobedience is a term that is new to many people. Believe it or not, it comes from the world of guide dog training. It’s about making the right judgement call if potential harm might occur, even if it defies ones’ training.

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Kelly Eisenhardt is Co-Founder and Managing Director at BlueCircle Advisors, an environmental compliance and sustainability consulting and training firm based in Massachusetts (www.bluecircleadvisors.com.)  In her role at BlueCircle Advisors, she is responsible for providing business intelligence, strategy and implementation of environmental, social and governance (ESG) risk programs.  Her experience aligns well with her client’s needs for technology, compliance, and sustainability expertise by helping companies create and manage their corporate environmental and social responsibility programs. She specializes in strategy, planning, and reporting for Conflict Minerals, RoHS, and REACH. She is also a member of the Corporate Responsibility Association and participates in the Ratings and Rankings, as well as Responsible Supply Chain committees.