Loyalty - NOT

When I work with leaders, there is one thing they seem to want more than anything else in their relationships with colleagues and – even more so – members or their own staff: loyalty. It sounds different from different leaders, but it’s essentially the same thing.

“I want to know they have my back.”

“I want to know that they’ll stick up for me and my policies even if I’m not in the room – and even if those policies aren’t popular.”

I’ve thought about this quite a bit. And frankly, it troubles me. If the same standard were applied to these leaders in their dealings with their managers and colleagues, I wonder how “loyal” they would come off. Is “loyalty” the same as never disagreeing – or at least, not openly? And if so, how realistic (and productive) would that really be? Different points of view, when handled constructively, can help us get to better answers.

Where have I landed on this? It’s honestly still a thought in progress, but here goes: what if loyalty meant that you’re fundamentally for me, even if we don’t agree on every thing? And we’ll talk about those areas of disagreement and talk about how we can handle them with minimum damage to both of our interests? And we’ll agree on how we’ll talk about them out in the big, bad world so that we don’t cause unnecessary spin and confusion – or let the political interests of others drive a wedge between us on the larger areas of mutual interest? In other words, we’ll stay loyal to this shared thing we’re working on, which requires both of us to tango and we’ll keep our promises about treating the areas of disagreement with respect and forthrightness.

Anyone brave enough to wade into this one? What does loyalty (in the best sense of the word) mean to you?