Cultivating Loyalty

Why loyalty still matters and why the leader needs to get it started

Team with ladder

For many years when people used the word ‘loyalty’ in a work or business situation they were talking about the implied loyalty that employees had to show towards their employer. There are very few people now who will work for just one organisation their entire lives, which is where this assumption came from. It’s not that cut-and-dry of course as many public sector organisations still retain people for large parts of their working life and there is a presumption of loyalty still. For the majority though and certainly Generation Y, the concept is moribund.

Well, at least the traditional concept of one-way loyalty is moribund. Other than talking about the loyalty of customers what we are now far more concerned about is two-way loyalty. This is loyalty of a leader to their people and vice versa. Which comes first you may ask, and should either be assumed?

Given that few people will be working for the same organisation their entire career anymore it is difficult to comprehend anything like ‘temporary loyalty’ to a company someone may work only a few years for. No, what is far more likely is that people simply do the right thing by the organisation they work for but develop loyalty to their colleagues and peers and, if the conditions are right, to their boss. The old adage that “people join a company but leave a [bad] boss” is just as true today as it has always been, perhaps more so.

We are told we have a war for talent and we know that employees are now far more willing to move from one organisation to another to further their careers. This doesn’t sound like a very fertile environment to cultivate loyalty amongst employees. But if a leader wishes attract and retain talent maybe the concept of loyalty is still valid, but this time loyalty from the leader to their team members?

If loyalty was about people trusting the organisation they worked for and going that ‘extra mile’ to get things done (amongst many other things of course) wouldn’t it be great if a leader could start this process off for their team, wherever they sit in the organisation.

What if a leader trusted each and every individual in their team to deliver what they could and ensured they had what was needed to do their work? What if a leader ensured that the whole was greater than the sum of the parts? What if a leader made sure the team was complemented with the right set of skills and experience and put in place development opportunities to allow that team to grow? And, most of all, what if that leader trusted the team to come up with the right solutions and allowed failure along the way? Nobody intends failing and no team intends to get things wrong. How powerful a message of loyalty would it be for a leader to accept when things go wrong and trust the team to learn from it for the future. Wouldn’t all this cultivate loyalty so that it became a two-way thing?

Loyalty does indeed cultivate loyalty but it’s down to the leader to make the first move.

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