Inspiring Loyalty

A recent NY Times article – you’d almost think they’d known about this week’s LeadershipChat topic and planned the timing – described the Shifting Definition of Worker Loyalty. It’s a good overview of the many reasons why the old business contract is null and void – companies no longer earn long-term employee loyalty, and employees are learning not to expect Big Brother Employer to take care of them from cradle to grave.

Whether this loss of MAS (Mutually Assured Symbiosis) be interpreted as good or bad, it just is. And it brings up the question – what can a leader do to build and inspire loyalty within a company? (note the two verbs – build and inspire.  “Assume” doesn’t cut it anymore).

There’s no magic bullet, but I think people will open the wallet of loyalty when they see these three things:

  1. A mission worthy of their affections
  2. A culture worthy of their attention
  3. An example worthy of emulation

If your company is just providing good or services in order to perpetuate its own existence, that’s not going to inspire anyone who aspires to higher purposes. And as soon as something better comes along, there will be few ties of loyalty – after all, it’s just a job, not a mission.

On the other hand, many employees have refused better offers, or come back to the fold, because there was something special in the company culture – something that makes people actually want to come to work and be part of it.

And then, something very powerful – a leader who is a great example inspires loyalty because people instinctively want to follow and learn from someone who is blazing the trail ahead. There will be little loyalty to a mere functionary with a title – but far more attachment to an example who walks the talk and inspires greatness.

That’s all the high-falutin’ stuff. Now, let me turn to one very simple action – which anyone can do – that engenders loyalty. It so simple, that it’s easy to overlook.

Notice people. And let them know that you notice them.

This link came across my Twitter stream today. Look at the number of Twitter followers Trey has. Do you have any idea how much it means to me to be called out as a Twitter BFF (we’ve only met IRL once, btw)? And do you think that, just perhaps, I might feel a deepened sense of loyalty to my pal in South Carolina for noticing me publicly? (but Trey, that pink jacket…I dunno, maybe it’s a Southern gentleman thing…)

What are your thoughts on Leaders who inspire loyalty? That’s what we’ll be discussing during #LeadershipChat on Tuesday, April 26th at 8 pm ET. And, be sure to read my co-host Lisa Petrilli’s post Leadership and Loyalty: Why it Must Start Within You.

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