Understanding Loyalty: The Most Important Part of Leadership
Leadership means being able to lead people. It means having the ability to change the way things are done. Followers are nothing without a leader, true, but a leader is nothing without followers either. One cannot be a captain without a ship or a king without a throne. Similarly, one cannot be a leader unless they have loyal followers.
A lot of people complain about loyalty in the business world. They say that the people who work under them are ungrateful or undependable. They talk about how the people under them often go missing without a notice or leave for another job after they have spent valuable time training them.
Do you know what all the people who complain about these things are missing? Loyal followers. We need to understand what loyalty is and what we keep getting wrong about loyalty.
A true leader has loyal followers. Sadly, there are many misconceptions among business leaders which prevent them from cultivating loyalty.
Understanding Loyalty and it’s link to selfishness
A lot of people think that loyalty means not being selfish and instead doing what the leader says.
This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Loyalty is not the lack of selfishness; it is the harnessing of selfishness. People aren’t loyal to you because they are willing to sacrifice their own progress for you.
People are loyal to you because they believe that you are going to do things better for them than they would be able to do on their own.
Loyal people are selfish too – but they are selfish people who truly believe that you have their betterment in your mind and that the decisions you take will be good for them. That is why they follow the leader – not because they are sycophants who need to be told what to do, but because they believe that the leader is intelligent enough that they will make the best decisions for everyone.
We need to decouple business leadership from military leadership
Read business leadership books, watch leadership talks, or listen to leadership lectures, and you will notice a lot of military stories and examples. People will talk about how the military leaders led the soldiers to victory and how there is a lesson in there for all of us. The reality is that there is no lesson for business leadership in military leadership. Militaries are full of people who love the country and have agreed to do whatever it takes to protect the country. They are willing to risk their lives in foreign lands to ensure no one can touch their homeland.
Business leaders, on the other hand, are trying to order around people who just want to make enough money so they have food and they can buy nicer clothes. Unless your company has employees that are willing to die for the company military leadership is not an ideal example to follow. Many managers get frustrated about ‘disobedience’ or ‘disloyalty’ from their followers. Understand that this isn’t an army and you are not leading a charge against the enemy. People aren’t going to be loyal to you just because you say so.
Instead, you need to give them a reason to be loyal to you. Stand up for them and look out for them. No person will follow you if they think you do not care about them. True business leaders are those who are followed by people who trust the knowledge and experience of the leaders. You need to inspire a vision in your people if you want them to be loyal. More importantly – they need to be rewarded. You need to actually care about people if you want them to follow you wherever need.