There are many management/leadership lessons in
that example, but in the context of this article I will
stick to the fact that the leader is mistaking compliance
with loyalty. There is a big difference! When leaders
don’t invest in the front end and build relationships
with the employees, lack competence and understanding of the work being performed, or simply treat the
staff as peasants unworthy of conversations, loyalty is
usually lacking. Loyalty is always a two-way street and
is never an entitlement based on a position.
To get loyalty, there are a few things that are essential.
You must value people and treat them right, showing
respect and fairness. Without this, the temptation to
demand loyalty creeps in. If you are having to talk
about loyalty with an organization or team, then you
don’t have it. Always remember that if you do demand
may be forced into submission as a matter of survival.
When this occurs, you will always get the minimum
and never reach the maximum potential in any area.
There will be little innovation, but instead just surviv-alist tactics, deception, and a lot of faking it.
You must provide an environment that produces
opportunity for becoming better. The heart responds
positively when an organization, team, or individual
experiences a higher level of knowledge, gets better
at a skill, and learns from the leader. The learning
should be in the form of how to do something or how
to handle something correctly and not as an example
of how not to do something. This higher level of
knowledge or perfected skill provides additional
opportunities to improve the lives of those involved.
CAUTION WHEN PROVIDING OPPORTUNITIES
As a leader, you should provide opportunities to
those who have earned it based on competence, skill,
and attitude. Providing opportunity because of some
other factor can have a detrimental effect on those who
were deserving of the opportunity. It is also detrimental to the individuals on the receiving end of the
opportunities because everyone knows they have not
earned them. This can create a false sense of success for
the individuals and a lack of appreciation for earning
loyalty. These undeserving recipients of opportunity
are often frustrated as they become leaders and are
expected to lead those who were deserving of the
opportunity because they are resented and not trusted.
CONSISTENCY AND TRUST
Consistency and trust are also essential to earning loyalty. These are things that cannot be gained
overnight or with a new title. Organizations often
overlook the time and actions needed to develop this
part of the puzzle. Instead, emphasis is often placed
on numbers, measurable things in a spreadsheet.
The organizational pressure to meet benchmarks
listed in some strategic plan often immediately takes
precedence over investing the time needed to build
the foundation of trust for the team so that compliance won’t have to be the goal. This might require
the leader to take a few hits from above on some
short-term numbers. In the long run, however, the
numbers will take care of themselves and may even
shatter the short-sighted strategic plan. Sticking up
for your people or your boss when it’s deserved is very
substantive and, when done consistently, develops a
very productive and innovative environment.
Remember, this is all a two-way street. If you can
accomplish the things listed above, you can create a
relaxed environment where organizations, teams, or
individuals are doing what you want done even before
you know it needs to be done. The healthy environment created results in loyalty without the need for
The most critical thing to remember here is that
leaders who don’t care, don’t provide opportunity, and
are not consistent will never have the loyalty of the
organization, teams, or individuals. These leaders,
however, rarely understand that they belong in this
category. The level of loyalty is always determined by
the people, not the leader; therefore, if you are a
leader suffering a loyalty crisis, it may be time to look
in the mirror. There is a powerful quote from the
Dalai Lama, “Our prime purpose in this life is to help
others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt
them.” Pretty good advice!
David Rhodes is a 31-year fire service veteran. He is a chief
elder for the Georgia Smoke Diver Program, a member of the Fire
Department Instructors Conference (FDIC) International Executive Advisory Board, a hands-on training coordinator for FDIC,
an editorial advisor for Fire Engineering and the UL Fire Safety
Research Institute, and an adjunct instructor for the Georgia Fire
Academy. He is a Type III incident commander for the Georgia
Emergency Management-Metro Atlanta All Hazards Incident
Management Team and is a task force leader for the Georgia
Search and Rescue Team. He is president of Rhodes Consultants,
Inc., which provides public safety training, consulting, and
promotional assessment centers.
The level of loyalty is always
determined by the people, not the leader.