If you are like me, you grew up understanding that you are never to question authority…ever. You are just supposed to do what you are told and all will be well. My parents did a great job with this, but everyone else not so much. Looking back at my childhood, I find that I never questioned my teachers, so I never found the reasons of why I did what I did. Of course I learned later in life the “why’s” but it would have been more helpful to know those things in the moment. When you know the “why”, you know the reason behind the reason.
The truest lesson in learning is understanding the “why’s” behind what you do.
Why is this so important?
“Because I said so.” doesn’t cut it. This is the worst possible answer you can give. There has to be more to it than that. Know the reason behind the reason and communicate it effectively. It is possible to respectably question authority by first, acknowledging the benefits of the current ways of doing things and the current situation. Then, do research before presenting your idea to those that you need to get clarification from. And finally be humble in the way you present and your reaction. The reason of questioning isn’t challenging, it is for clarification. This discussion isn’t always easy, but it is always necessary to become everyone involved to become better and to know the “why” in the first place.
Great leaders clarify and over-communicate.
Here are four reasons why you should question authority more often:
1. Questioning brings discussion.
I should begin this conversation by telling you that having a relationship with who you are questioning is necessary for a constructive conversation to take place. Trust is important to have from every party involved so each individual involved knows that each person’s best interests are being considered.
Now that we have that out of the way, let us consider what discussion can take place from this.
Discussion with your kids, your team at work or people in general is a good thing. When leaders don’t want things questioned, it is a sign of insecurity. Secure leaders invite discussion around what is currently happening in order to become better leaders. Making time for this discussion is the first ingredient necessary to happen for good change or clarification to take place.
2. Questioning brings security in what you believe.
You have to know the “why” behind the “why” in order to know why you do what you do. When you can come back with a solid answer on why things are done, you then know it is the right thing to do. When you do not know why you believe in certain ideas, it forces you to go back and search for the necessary answers that you desperately need to defend the “why’s”.
3. Questioning allows for teachable moments.
Teachable moments are more important than we give them credit for. I believe this is largely due to flying through life and not taking the time to recognize those moments of learning. Teachable moments come from questioning and learning comes from this.
4. Questioning embraces good tension.
Tension is a good thing. Why? Because without tension, definite answers aren’t formed. If it is always “follow the leader”, then accountability isn’t formed either and the best ideas cannot and will not come to life.
So many times as leaders we want to keep things simple and that includes keeping things just as they are. But, where is the growth in this? How does proper change ever take place that keeps other in mind? Remember, leadership is about others.
Properly questioning leadership brings good change for everyone involved.
So, the next time that questioning ideas doesn’t seem like a big deal, remember that you might be holding the missing piece to the puzzle. Embrace questioning, whether you are the recipient or the giver of new thoughts and ideas or you just need clarification of the “why” behind the “why”. We all need to know the WHY.
What benefits have you seen from properly questioning authority?