Loyalty has been a recurrent theme for me this past week. For whatever reason it has surfaced more than a few times in conversation and situation. My husband even said ‘I know how important that is for you, how much loyalty means.’ He is right, very right. I appreciate that he knows me well enough to know that, and I can also appreciate how it might be important to everyone.
I take loyalty very seriously. And you wouldn’t necessarily know that unless you knew me quite well. Loyalty is a currency for me, if you are disloyal I have a hard time trusting you, and maybe even liking you. That doesn’t mean that I won’t be kind to you, it just means I will be more aware of you; I will pay a different kind of attention to you and I will filter how I invest in you.
Loyal is defined as unswerving in allegiance: faithful to a cause, ideal, custom, institution, person or product. (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/loyal) And therefore, loyalty is the act of being loyal.
I don’t think loyalty is easy. I don’t think it is necessarily hard either. I do think it is easily assumed, just about as easily as disloyalty. What if you make a mistake that appears to go against someone or something, that shows on the surface as disloyalty? But what if your intention was good? Your motivation perhaps, is self-serving but with no malice and no lack of commitment to whom or what you are loyal to. For example; you love Coke products but Pepsi comes out with a new product that is intriguing to you – so you try it. Does that make you disloyal to Coke? Does it make you less of a Coke fan? Does it mean that you break all ties with Coke? Does it mean that you change your opinions on Coke and instantly revert from all the things that made you their customer in the first place? Or can it mean, that you simply wanted to try something else and had no mal-intent towards Coke? How far does loyalty reach?
Now what about people loyalty? Are we less flexible with what we tolerate in terms of loyalty among friends or family members? Do we have different standards, levels of acceptance? Do we make things mean things they may not mean, and damage, or sever relationships because we, in essence, stop thinking once we have our judgement in place?
What if people mistake your action for disloyalty but in reality, it is just immaturity? Immaturity is not owned by the tween and teens of our time, it follows us along our path. I believe it challenges us daily and jockey’s us in between being who we can be, to who we want to be, back to who we give up into when we feel tired, weak or angry, or a multitude of other emotions. Immaturity is a reaction as much as it is a state.
For me loyalty is ever-present; it shows up in the good times and the bad. It is the ‘no one left behind’ mentality that provides security, reliance and faith. Leadership without loyalty is impossible; one is inherent to the other. Loyalty is built on trust and security. Your team needs to know that no matter what you are there, and you will be there even if they mess up. That you will help them, you will be honest with the, and you will never sacrifice their well being for your own.
Unswerving commitment doesn’t mean perfection; it means a steady, consistent and indomitable dedication. Even if we get off course it doesn’t have to mean that we gave up the course all together. Part of growing and part of becoming committed is learning the difference between what you have, and what you think you want. We all screw up, we all make mistakes, we all act immaturely. And as far as I can tell, none of us out grow that.
Maybe we need to look at our own rules around loyalty. I know for myself, I can forget the true essence of things because I get mired down in my own emotions. The leadership goal is to create a team that is committed, and that will happen if you are committed. A leader won’t cast you out when you make mistakes or wrong turns, he or she will bring you in closer; they will surround you, they will make you stronger…better. They will accept the flaw if you commit to trying harder and just being smarter next time. That commitment will grow loyalty, because they will relax into knowing that no matter what you won’t leave them behind.
Maybe we just need to go back a few steps and re-establish what words and rules mean. It might be the difference between perceived loyalty and real loyalty. And let’s face it; perception is not always, if ever, perhaps rarely, reality.