Are You a Constructive or Passive Dissenter?

Accountability Organizational culture Personal leadership


Key Point: As a CEO and leader I have come to appreciate and highly value the constructive dissenter. I also have learned to disassociate myself from the continuous passive dissenter. The best (but X-rated) description of passive dissention is to “grin f***;” sometimes the worst expressions are the best expressions. Why? The constructive dissenter cares and is confident enough to give you another viewpoint. Most leaders balance forward movement with risk mitigation. Someone who gives valued insight to help assure the best possible decisions get made is a great teammate. The passive dissenter will disagree too, but you likely won’t know about it until something you expected to get done just doesn’t happen. The passive dissenter will nod and smile in outward agreement but is saying below the surface, “I don’t agree,” “that won’t work,” “I will wait that dumb idea out.” This happens more often with immature teams and/or a very aggressive, dominant leader. It doesn’t take long for smart people to figure out whether constructive dissent or disagreement is welcomed and highly valued. If you want to be an effective leader and/or follower you have to learn how to promote and present constructive dissent. If you are just a passive follower you will eventually dissolve off the value map. If you are a dissent-resisting leader you will eventually make a big mistake and no one will be with you when the knives come out.

Character Moves:

  1. Become a strong and effective dissenter. This means learning how to package disagreement with alternative solutions. Learn how to apply and show critical thinking. Use facts and data instead of just emotion. Avoid being known as a destructive dissenter (whiner, complainer, resister). Use constructive dissent to move forward and become better.
  2. If you are in a leadership role become known as someone who welcomes constructive disagreement and dissension. Be a great listener. Demand good analysis and alternative solutions. Be careful not to send signals that shut people down. Sometimes this is subtle and you don’t think you’re doing it, but people get to know our hot buttons. Keep the green light on until you have enough to make the best critically reviewed decision.
  3. If you are a professional passive dissenter, go somewhere else please.

Constructive dissension in The Triangle,