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Loyalty isn’t something that comes automatically with a job title. It isn’t even exclusive to leadership or position. Loyalty is hard earned, requiring self-awareness, determination and a clear sense of vision. After all, who wants to follow someone who doesn’t know where they are headed?
Inspiring loyalty may take effort, but the reward is great. Here are a few ideas for how leaders can inspire loyalty, even within the most cynical members of their team.
- Build Trust. Is there anything more important to leadership than trust? The simple truth is that when we trust and respect those we work for and with, we are more engaged in the job at hand and much more likely to remain loyal to their goals and vision. But, trust works both ways – we must act in a way that encourages our team to trust us, but we must also demonstrate trust in our team. When leaders micro-manage and second guess everything their team does, it creates a sense of personal doubt that can eliminate the possibility of creativity or innovation. Leadership sometimes requires gifting trust without reservation in order to influence others to rise to the occasion.
- Place a high value on professional development. Most of us need a certain amount of momentum behind us in order to stay engaged and motivated. We need to know that we are doing something that matters and that our lives and careers have positive progression. Without consistent opportunities for learning, and new challenges that test our skills and our character, it’s too easy to become stagnant. Most of us tend to feel a sense of loyalty and respect for those guides who come along side us and offer opportunities to grow. As leaders, we can build loyalty simply by doing all we can to support the professional development of our staff and providing opportunities for them to stretch beyond their current capabilities.
- Be the compass. Regardless of industry, most of us spend at least a portion of every week swimming in uncertainty. Our natural tendency is to look for guides and markers that show us we are on the right track. As leaders, we can serve as a compass for our team by offering clarity, vision, and a path to get back on track when things go awry. One way to be the compass is through absolute clarity about your organizational mission, values and goals, and tying day-to-day tasks back to the overarching vision.
- Lead with authenticity. I don’t think it’s even possible to inspire loyalty without openness and honesty, do you? Open, authentic interaction with others creates confidence, trust, and a feeling of inclusion. Authentic people make us feel like we are part of a team. This sense of belonging is crucial if your objective is to create a culture of low turnover, where long-term working relationships built on trust and respect are the norm.
- Honor and respect the fact that everyone has a life outside the office. While it’s incredibly important to establish a culture of professionalism at work, we must also recognize that each and every one of us has a life outside of work that can sometimes encroach on our professional lives. If you want to inspire loyalty with your staff, go out of your way to recognize and make some allowances for major life milestones like birth, death, marriage and divorce. Good or bad, major changes in our personal lives can, and will, affect our work. We must acknowledge this fact and care for our employees if we want to cultivate the kind of loyalty that inspires hard-work during smooth times.
When I think about the greatest leaders I’ve known throughout my life, they were not revered because they demanded loyalty – they inspired it through their words and actions. The loyalty they received was freely given. Throughout the years, I’ve come to recognize how truly essential that is. Do you have an example of how someone you’ve worked with has inspired loyalty? Share it with us in the comments.