During one of my coaching calls last week, my entrepreneurial client remarked, "We can train for everything except loyalty." Wow, I had never heard this concept expressed that way. I immediately began to digest and unpack his words. Next, I asked several others, whose opinions I regularly seek out, what they thought. The consensus was that we should model and encourage loyalty, which is a given. But if a leader models and inspires loyalty, does that guarantee its reciprocation? Is loyalty a give-to-get kind of thing, or is it something that emerges from an internal source regardless of the context?
My father, Charlie "Tremendous" Jones, had a unique perspective on this very topic. He said, "Loyalty is something you give regardless of what you get back, and in giving loyalty, you're getting more loyalty; and out of loyalty flow other great qualities.” In light of his words, let's look at what loyalty is and what it is not. If trust is the glue that holds the entity together, then loyalty is the force that binds.
The Dangers of Division
I conducted a class early in my speaking career on the concept of the Judas Principle. This concept was based on a conversation with a colleague whose teammate committed an incongruent act with the organization’s values. The lack of loyalty shook the member as he recounted the events. How could one of the inner fold have done something so at odds with what they stood for? Even Jesus Christ had this happen to Him when he included Judas, who would later betray Him, in the leadership circle. Didn't Jesus model loyalty? How could the perfect leader and most tremendous teacher in the world not inspire and train His disciples for loyalty?
United We Stand, Divided We Fall
"United we stand, divided we fall" is a phrase used to inspire unity and collaboration. Its core concept lies in the collective notion that if individual members of a group with binding ideals work on their own instead of as a team, they are each doomed to fail and will all be defeated. As Memorial Day approaches, we honor the men and women, both in and out of uniform, who laid down their lives because they were loyal to the shared Military Oath of Enlistment and the principles for which it stands. And yes, today, we see a pronounced lack of loyalty to Americans' quality and way of life. How can we, as the wealthiest and most accessible country in the history of the world, have such a lack of loyalty to the founding principles others died for so we may enjoy?
Servant Leadership is For Everyone
At the heart of all things tremendous is the concept of servant leadership. Practicing servant leadership is the key to generating loyalty. You don't do it by putting yourself first; you do it by placing the company and people first. Until you serve others first, your team will not afford you the loyalty you desire. Serving others over self requires humility, teachability, and self-awareness. Loyalty will never be given and only taken, unless these qualities are present. False loyalty can never be reciprocated freely, but only shown when conditions are deemed favorable. That's no way to run an organization, country, family, or ministry. How can we be so self-oriented and wise in our own eyes? How can we constantly point out the speck in others' eyes when we can't see beyond the one in our own?
Follow the Mission, Not the Man
While I love working for leaders who inspire loyalty, the problem is that none of them—or us— is perfect. The more closely we see someone, the more we see the cracks in the armor and character defects. Plus, there is no guarantee that our favorite leaders will be in their position for any amount of time. I once left a job to follow my leader, only to have them retire two months later. Loyalty is keeping your eyes focused on the mission, not the man. Absolute loyalty is tied to a purpose, not a person. So, make sure that your focus is as high as possible and guard your heart against hero worship.
Loyalty is something that we can't train for, but we can help others understand what it truly is. In a world that puts diversity at the forefront, we still have to be united around the mission. Otherwise, there won't be anything we’ll be loyal to other than ourselves and our thinking. May we all become more developed in our understanding of loyalty and how it impacts the organization.