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Questioning the Boss Is An Integrity Test

People want to hear from leaders who have the Integrity to put aside their own needs and risk something for the good of the team.

As soon as a coffee breaks starts, the whining begins. At every strategy meeting, there is always a group of managers who huddle together in the hallway—or even in the bathroom—for one reason, to complain. They don’t like the new policy or a new strategy doesn't make sense. But once the meeting reconvenes, they say nothing. Have you ever seen it? It isn’t uncommon. Most of us have seen this phenomenon in our own teams.

On our leadership team, I was “the guy unafraid to say stuff.” My boss used to say, “I can always count on Dave to call out BS.” One time, I was having a beer with one of my peers. He confided how he felt it was not his role to speak up about his frustrations. He was sure our boss would not take it well from him. Instead, he wanted me to be the one to bring up his concerns.

I told my friend, “Kurt, If it needs to be said, we need a leader to step up and say it. This is true even if the boss doesn't like what we have to say. The only reason he listens to me is because he heard me speak up in the past. We have built trust because he knows my motives for speaking up are genuine. The same can be true for you. The more he hears from you, the more he will trust your motives and what you have to say as well.”

The higher a leader gets in an organization, the less they are able to see at the ground level. Higher ranking leaders need frontline leaders to provide a ground level perspective. A willingness to discuss difficult matters with a boss and provide ground level perspective is a test of our Integrity.

We define Integrity as: “Doing what is good, right and proper—even at personal cost.” If we want to be a Leader of Character, we must have difficult discussions with our boss, even if the boss won’t like it. As leaders, we fail an Integrity test if we stay silent or just complain with peers during breaks.

Over the next few meetings, I watched my friend speak up more and more. We continued to discuss his concerns on the phone. After which, he continued to exercise Integrity in meetings with our boss. The more he asked questions, the more influence he began to have.

As an added bonus, his influence grew among the rest of the team as well. After all, we want to hear from leaders who have the Integrity to put aside their own needs and risk something for the good of the team. As a leader, my friend began to risk our boss’ pushback for the sake of what he believed was good, right and proper. As he continued to exercise Integrity and speak up, we all began to rely on him more and more. He became a leader among leaders—a Leader of Character we were willing to follow.

Dig Deep Questions:

  • In the past, when have you missed your opportunity to speak up?

  • How do you feel about “that guy” who is willing to speak for the rest of the team?

  • Is this person a leader you would follow?


It is important to us for you to have an opportunity to exercise Integrity, not only individually, but together as a team. This is why we have created practice cards with scenarios. We invite you to discuss as a team what it means to exercise Integrity via our Coaching Cards.

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