Friday, 19 May 2017

Let's talk Loyalty.

Many leaders feel that loyalty is a given.  Anyone on their team must adhere to the policies and principles that are set out by the leader.  To run contrary to these values is to be dis-loyal and the ‘offender’ is subject to discipline up to and including dismissal.

In many instances, I concur with this generalization.  One should know and agree with the culture of the company before accepting employment.  To state afterwards that you do not agree with aspects of the culture is not a valid complaint.

What many leaders fail to recognize is that loyalty is a two way street. 

As the leader, the culture that you establish significantly influences the reason that individuals are attracted to work for you and to continue to work for you.  It is on the basis of this culture which aligns with the individual’s personal beliefs that relationships are established and maintained.

This cultural alignment also extends externally to your clients and your suppliers.  It is not unreasonable to say that these are relationships based on loyalty to you and, by extension, to your company.  As a provider of goods or services, your loyal clients have built trust in your recommendations and look to you almost as a partner in their business. 

As much as loyalty serves your interests - whether that is the internal loyalty of staff or the external loyalty of others - it is important to recognize that the loyalty is built on a two way street.  You must remain loyal to the culture which attracted both in the first place.  It is a relationship built first and foremost on that which you offer them, not vice versa.  Their trust, their commitment, their loyalty is built on the foundation of trust and commitment and loyalty that you present and maintain.

In most instances these people, internal and external, will remain loyal unless and until your position changes, i.e. until you cease to be loyal to that which you first represented.  When you make a material movement away from that foundation, you have ceased to be loyal to the vision; you have broken the bonds that formed the relationship.  Therefore, when others respond by pulling away or disconnecting entirely, the fault lies with you, not them.  

Your behavior was the catalyst of change and their response is not one of disloyalty.  Rather it is a normal and healthy response that affords them the time to analyze whether or not the changes that you initiated constitute enough of a violation as to prompt their changed loyalty.

Loyalty is not synonym for allegiance.  The two are quite different.  Loyalty is a choice and is two way.  Allegiance is a command and goes only one way.  The problem arises when the leader asks for loyalty but expects allegiance.  This prompts unrealistic expectations on both sides of the relationship.  It is only a matter of time before the disconnect results in a complete breakdown and disintegration of the union of the parties.

You are the leader.  You set the tone; you set the culture; you control the work environment; you establish and maintain the parameters under which the business or the unit will function.  Continually check to ensure that the standards that you presented are kept – or improved.  In so doing you will have done your part in holding true to the part of the loyalty equation which is your responsibility.  And you should reasonably expect others to do likewise.  It is this partnership that makes your efforts a success.

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