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Defending Authority

Good leaders are not afraid to question a boss's bad decision. Taking a risk and challenging an unsound directive from above is not for the faint of heart. That's why it's a rare behavior, and why it's one of the vital integrities of values-based leadership. But there are some instances when challenging the boss's is inappropriate.

In the past few days, six retired generals have publicly spoken out against Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and called for his resignation or firing. Critics of the administration were quick to portray the six combat veterans as uniquely qualified to judge Rumsfeld's leadership in the war on terror. As private citizens, the retired commanders are entitled to voice their opinions, and even make money doing so on national television. But for any soldier, active or inactive, to try to influence the civilian control of the military goes against the values of our system of government.

Our constitution assigns control of the military to elected and appointed government leaders. In other words, the government controls the military, not the other way around. That's why the U.S. president does not wear an army uniform, openly display a holstered handgun, or fire a rifle into the air after making a speech. And that's why it's inappropriate for our military leaders to have any say in who leads them.

How do you know when it's appropriate for you to question authority? When doing so honors, and protects, the values of your organization.
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