Every summer, I try to do something for my own personal development. This summer, it was to get in touch with my “geeky” love of history and catch up (and reacquaint myself) on everything that’s happened in the past 1500 years. I read about the Plantagenet’s, the Tudors, the American Revolution, the French Revolution, Truman, Patton, Peter Morrone, Eisenhower, Grant and even John Adams. Then, I started my study of General Douglas MacArthur. As a side note, even though a little bit of a Prima Donna, Douglas MacArthur was a certifiable bad ass. He stood tall when others crept. He jumped to the front when others scurried to the back. He, without question, led from the front.
In one section of the biography, MacAthur said to a subordinate, “Loyalty must be won!” At first, I didn’t know if I agreed with this. Certain questions ran through my head. Isn’t loyalty earned? If someone wins, doesn’t that mean that someone else loses? However, after further thought, I had to agree. Because, if loyalty isn’t won, it’s the leader that loses.
In today’s world, loyalty is hard to come by. Most people seem about as loyal as the good deal they’re going to get the next time around or from the next person in the chain of command. We, as leaders, want loyalty. We need loyalty. Loyalty keeps us whole as a group and, ultimately, saves us time, money, and heartache. When everything else is falling apart it is loyalty that keeps us together. But, loyalty cannot be demanded. We must win it! How? I’m glad you asked…
If you want it, give it!
All continuing relationships are based on reciprocity. If you want respect, give it. If you want trust, give it. If you want loyalty, GIVE IT! Your team should never be in doubt of your loyalty to them. If they are there, so are you. If they are doing it, so are you. If you are asking them to give, so are you! We should never ask of others what we’re not willing to do ourselves.
Be a “Pit Bull” in taking care of your people!
One of the adages that I live by is that “nobody can call my sister fat but me”. Although true, for me it directly pertains to how I interact with (and for) a team I’ve been given the honor leading. If someone in my team needs to be recalibrated, no one should do it but me! I am the buffer between my team and higher authority. The same applies to your team, doesn’t it? If there’s someone that needs to be talked to, coached or disciplined, you should be the one to do it. Serve your team first, question second. Further, if it serves your team, never let go of the issue until they forcibly pry your jaws off of it.
Appreciate the person first and then the job.
On a very human level, we all want to know that we matter. Not just for the job we do but as a person. Put in the time to get to know your people. Know their likes, dislikes and about their family. How do we do that? Ask! I amazed at what I’ve learned just hanging out in the break room, shooting the bull, and asking questions. Acknowledge the person for who they are and then for what they do. The leaders I have been most loyal to are the ones that took the time to know me.
Give all of the credit and take all of the blame.
We live in a time of passing the buck and pointing the finger when things go wrong. Real leaders don’t do that. They accept the responsibility and know they only look good when their team looks good. When things go right, it’s the team that did it. When things go wrong, it’s you that did it. That’s the public persona. You (and the team) know different. When things go wrong, accept the responsibility. Then find how not to do it again in the future with the help of the team.
Be YOU! (Unless you’re an ass…then be a slightly nicer version of you).
Authenticity counts with your team. Just as your team’s cares are yours, as loyalty builds, your cares will be theirs. Be real, be honest and be frank. No one can argue with the truth and 99% of the time, people appreciate it. If you’re honest with your team they’ll forgive an occasional misstep and know, no matter what, that you walk your talk.
As the saying goes…people don’t quit a company they usually quit a leader. This is due to a number of variables. Perhaps the leader is overbearing. Perhaps the leader is a micro-manager. Maybe the leader is just an ass (and not honest). I believe that the real reason that trumps all the others is that the leader didn’t work to win the loyalty of the people they were given the honor of leading. There is a cost involved with this loss and not only in dollars. Don’t lose as a leader, work to win the loyalty of your team!