Loyalty – a thing of the past?
“Nowadays the organisation cannot demand the loyalty of its people; it has, instead, to earn their loyalty.” British social philosopher Charles Handy from his book, “Beyond Certainty”.
What does it mean to be loyal? That an individual is expected to support the organisational views with whomever it is that the leader says there is loyalty to, unconditionally? That the leader is biased in their favour? That there is some form of unquestionable relationship with them?
If the above definitions were true, then loyalty would be a very sad thing. No significance, no power, no meaning. The above definitions say: “I am on your side as long as no harm befalls me”. And if this is true, then loyalty is casual. Easily formed and easily lost, which is sadly what often happens today. People are seen to be more selfish in their actions.
But loyalty is not defined that way. Loyalty is faithfulness or a devotion to a person or cause that is clearly understood. Devotion, meaning dedication, and dedication, meaning time, meaning effort, meaning priority, meaning ‘we’, and placing everyone in the team within the responsibility chain implying that ‘we’ sink and swim together.
The key point is that loyalty requires an environment to be created where every individual comprehends why there is the chosen loyalty and that dedication is essential and that it requires sacrifice. Sacrifice equals effort. For some people in our business circles, what is viewed as effort can be very different from our own expectations of it!
Once we accept this fact, we can adjust our expectations to create an environment where we accept that another person’s display of loyalty might be different to our own. Loyalty expands beyond the simple, “I’m on your side because you tell me to” mantra.
What can you do to align loyalty understanding and expectations throughout your organization?