Examples of civil disobedience throughout history have lessons that complying with orders may not always be the best method. Photo credit: Ben Schumin. Licensed via Wikimedia Commons

In his work on leadership for both government and corporations, Ira Chaleff has become something of an expert on followers. What he's found—and what he argues in his book Intelligent Disobedience and in his conversation with WhoWhatWhy's Jeff Schechtman—is that we have to learn not to be so quick to follow orders and accept authority. Chaleff explores how a remarkable range of wrongdoing of all magnitudes—from financial fraud to war crimes, and even, surprisingly, sexual misconduct—can to some degree trace back to the compromised moral compass of those too quick to comply with orders. While we may not all have it in us to become whistleblowers, says Chaleff, we can all stand to be a bit more disobedient—when it is warranted.

Parents know how even the smallest child has little difficulty saying “no.” So why, as we get older, do we become so used to saying yes to those in power?

Leadership expert Ira Chaleff contends that we have been raised to follow orders unquestioningly, and the result is a culture defined by compromised moral compasses, where people carry out harmful order under the assumption that they are exempt from responsibility. Chaleff asks, “Why do we follow orders when we know we should not?”

Chalef tells Jeff Schechtman that we must relearn how to speak up so our voices are heard and in so doing we can transform our culture and our politics.



  • Jeff Schechtman

    Jeff Schechtman’s career spans movies, radio stations and podcasts. After spending twenty-five years in the motion picture industry as a producer and executive, he immersed himself in journalism, radio, and more recently the world of podcasts. To date he has conducted over ten-thousand interviews with authors, journalists, and thought leaders. Since March of 2015, he has conducted over 315 podcasts for

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