As Leaders we have 2 main areas where we must remain loyal. However, loyalty can also often be blinding. We can’t be so loyal to one thing that we forsake the other. And it’s very possible to do. There are pitfalls to being overly loyal to one over the other.
Loyalty needs to be in partnership with flexibility.
These two areas that need to be in balance with one another is our loyalty to people and our loyalty to the vision.
Let’s get one thing straight. Leaders are loyalists. And we tend to pledge our allegiance to the thing we serve. Which tends to be that of either people or a vision. Those who are able to properly balance the two and know when to prioritize one over the other are ones who have been able to successfully prevail in Leadership. However, I am sure they learned how to master this over time (and probably occasionally still fail at it).
Let’s start with the people. Because, well, we need them. Without people, we’ve got nothing. And most Leaders immediately understand that. As Leaders, we must not only be willing to serve our people, but also listen to them. When leading people, there needs to be a partnership. Discussions don’t sound like “I” they sound like “We.” People need to know and feel your allegiance to them. Your commitment. They need to know you have their back regarding whatever it is that you are all trying to accomplish together. Not feeling like some task master is manipulating them into accomplishing something that doesn’t benefit them in the slightest.
Then there’s the other end of the spectrum of loyalty to our people.
Being overly loyal. More specifically, overly loyal to those who may no longer be committed to the vision. But we keep them around, because we care about them as a person.
This is a tough thing. It is for me, anyway. When you have somebody who has been loyal to your vision for an extended period of time, but no longer is committed to serving the vision, yet still shows up and is negatively impacting others around them; it is very difficult to resolve within oneself that it might be time for them to re-commit or go somewhere else.
What we do here is so absolutely imperative. It’s imperative because the rest of the group is watching. Even in these moments, there still must be a balance of prioritizing vision & people.
Tremendous care must be taken when approaching an individual who is no longer on board with a vision. But it must be done. It must not be avoided and it must be done swiftly.
In these moments, we have to remind ourselves what is best for the greater team. Will my loyalty to this person cause division amongst this group in the long run and distract us from the overall vision?
We can not be manipulative and cause others to change their minds. But we can be honest with our people. And at the end of the day, in order to achieve your vision or your purpose, you need the right people on the bus.
Let’s move on to loyalty to the vision.
Some people are very naturally charismatic. They are always surrounded by people and have tremendous amounts of influence. It’s not uncommon for these individuals to have no idea what to do with this.
Do you know people who tend to have a new best friend every year or so? Or even Leaders who surround themselves with a group, and their group is forever changing?
It’s possible that the Leader lacks vision.
There’s an old Proverb that say, “Without a vision, the people perish.”
I like to interpret this as, “Without a vision, you might as well be herding cats.”
Vision is necessary. Vision, a goal, a common purpose, whatever you want to call it. There must be a target. People need something to work towards to achieve a sense of accomplishment. It’s the meaning to what they do. Their why.
Example: Getting people to gather and pick up dog poop for free will probably be something extremely difficult to accomplish. But if you gather people who are passionate about animals and creating a better environment for them to reside and need volunteers to support this vision of creating a better quality of life for our four-legged friends, you’re probably more likely to find some help. You gave purpose to the poo-picking-upping.
Now if these wonderful people who are wiling to clean up animal feces for a greater purpose begin to grumble about their working conditions because they don’t have gloves or the right tools to get the job accomplished, it’s probably a good idea to listen to them.
If we are too loyal to the vision and not the people, it might look like us ignorantly encouraging them to press onward and find a way. A Leader who is loyal to both their people and their vision will listen to the people and establish a plan together of how to better serve the greater purpose.
I’m sure, just like me, you have seen these extremes play out in real life (maybe not in a poo scenario, but you get what I mean). Leaders who keep people around who are toxic to the team out of loyalty and Leaders who care more about accomplishing a task than listening and teaming up with the people. Leadership is tough. And though we are loyal individuals, we must always be in a balancing act to establish what we should be prioritizing and when.
Be loyal to your people.
Be loyal to the vision.