The Intelligent Defiance of a Great Follower

Leader vs Follower concept.

Examine the structure of followers and leaders. Create healthy work cultures

A fragile bond exists between leaders and followers. When we are followers of a person of authority, in essence, we become agents of authority. Our actions are a direct result of our role. On occasion, as a follower, we lose the sense of personal responsibility for our actions. When we lose this sense, we do not take responsibility for our actions. As an agent of authority, we may follow orders even when we know what we are doing is wrong.

Intelligent defiance can create an ambiguous state of emotions that is directly linked to the relationship that exists with your leader. Vision, principles, and joint self-awareness are the primary foundations of the bond between a leader and follower.

Naturally, we anticipate that a follower will submit to a leader’s direction. The waters are muddied when the actions are not completed in the spirit of the shared vision or principles. The follower may turn to intelligent defiance when asked to complete an action that is just not right.

When followers fight back for the right thing, there may be a fear of repercussions or violations of trust. “How will it affect my relationship with my leader if I do the right thing because it is the right thing to do? How can I be intelligently defiant without sacrificing my job or my emotional investments?”

Intelligent Defiance

Intelligent defiance is a necessary evil that all great followers will encounter when keeping our leaders in check. The following situations may call for an act of intelligent defiance:

  • Leaders may give a directive based on misrepresented information.
  • The leader has lost sight of the core values of the organization.
  • If immoral or illegal actions are requested.

The need for intelligent defiance can be avoided by building a higher level of trust and expectations within the organization’s culture. An organizational culture that has a genuine interest in listening to every stakeholder will hold the leader accountable while enabling the follower. Fostering this type of culture in any organization will establish expectations for healthy relationships between the great leaders and the great followers with only an occasional appearance of intelligent defiance.


  1. Cathy Borowsky says

    Great reminder, thanks.

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