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Leaders Who Trade in Loyalty
Team members who sacrifice along with their leaders earn a different brand of respect. Their deep sense of loyalty to the leader and larger organization is a rare quality that doesn’t fade quickly from memory.
Battle-tested colleagues who go the extra mile when it is most needed hold a special place in the minds of leaders.
Leaders who reward loyalty with recognition, attention, and appreciation help to cultivate even more devotion. This is a good thing — up to a point. Loyal colleagues work harder, longer, and with more passion because they refuse to let the leader down. A stronger, more rewarding relationship with the leader is their reward.
That leaders reciprocate by being more loyal to them seems only fair. Leaders naturally want people by their side who they can depend on.
It is when leaders begin to trade on this loyalty that it can become a problem.
Promoting, compensating, and protecting colleagues on the basis of loyalty undermines the team and creates a highly dysfunctional climate. When leaders place a higher regard on loyalty than they do qualities, like competence or results, they make long-term decisions that destroy the team’s ability to perform.
Leaders who are overly loyal often defend underperforming colleagues and keep them in roles where they are not succeeding. Everyone around them knows this is because of their allegiance to the leader and it zaps their will to be candid about performance issues.
Worse yet, when other team members come to believe it is loyalty to the leader and not their experience, skill, and contribution that matter most, they play to the test and spend more time currying favor than on achieving results.
Loyalty is a much-valued virtue between leaders and followers. Good leaders encourage loyalty by acting in kind. But, when taken too far, a fixation on loyalty can prove to undermine leadership and team effectiveness.
The question every leader must ask is: How much does loyalty influence my decisions and judgments regarding the team?
Leaders who stand steadfastly behind team members and their ideas primarily because of their loyalty create significant team dysfunction. Like so many other leadership qualities, too much of a good thing can create long-term disorder. Even loyalty.