Great Leaders Expect Loyalty
A few months ago, two clinical staff and a manager left our organization and started another clinic. While I wish them success, their departure triggered a cascade of events which pushed me and our leadership staff to answer a simple question: What does loyalty mean?
Strangely enough, I had never given loyalty much thought. It had never come up in my life as a leader, which began in 2006. Sure, I have had people leave our organizations, but it was always a mutual understanding. It was expected, planned for, small. This event happened suddenly and caused me to stop and reflect on what I should know about loyalty and what my expectations are of myself and the people who work with us.
If you are a loyal team member, and you are offered a position by a competitor, do you consider it? Do you accept it? What is loyalty in this scenario? If you are at an organization temporarily and plan to leave once you gain experience, is that disloyal?
An employer might answer those questions this way: A person must be loyal, and by that I mean, their intention must be to grow deep roots and improve the organization, not always be on the lookout for what is next. Therefore, seeking outside offers would be disloyal. If you are unhappy, then please leave. Go where you can be loyal. Remaining somewhere while you wait for the right time to leave is akin to lying. It is unethical, immoral, and definitely disloyal.
However, an employee may see it from this perspective: While I want to be dedicated and work hard for the organization I currently belong to, my first priority is to myself and my family. I will do anything, including considering better offers, or even leaving, to better my station and situation. Doing that is not illegal, nor is it unethical or immoral. It is real life. Everyone must make choices to do what is best for themself and their family.
A few months before our team members left, one of them told me, “If I am offered a position from another company, I will consider it. But I am not looking to leave.” When I heard this, I cringed. It did not sit well with me. But beyond that queasy feeling, I did not do much with this information. After all, I thought, that’s probably how I would feel if I were in her shoes. She ended up leaving with the group shortly after that comment. In retrospect, I know that what she shared was not right. It would be like a teen saying to her family, if another family gives me a bigger allowance, I will leave you. That would be unthinkable. Even though work teams are not exactly like a family, I think our goal as leaders is to create unity similar to a family. Healthy family members talk about what is not going well, they fix it, and they stick it out.
[You may also enjoy reading this article: Values of a Great Team: Family]
After much thought and reflection, I believe the following principles define loyalty for a healthy, mature leader, one who demonstrates deep character and high integrity.
A loyal person:
- Makes the relationship with their current organization deep, long-term, and healthy.
- Improves the organization and desires to see it succeed.
- Does not hurt the organization in any way.
- Does not share secrets with other organizations.
- Gives grace to the leadership when mistakes happen and does not jump ship at the first sign of taking on water.
- Resigns if they cannot commit to the principles above.
If you get an offer for more money, is it disloyal to consider it? Is it disloyal to leave? Is it disloyal to go after your dreams?
The answer is no. However, it is disloyal not to share your dreams with your current employer. It is disloyal not to be transparent, not to tell your employer that your heart is not in the work. Yes, sharing such information may cause a severing of the relationship. Or, it may not. For me, if someone tells me that their dream is not to work with me, I will respect them for their courage and integrity.
It may be the cultural norm for many corporations that everyone pulls for themselves, not genuinely concerned for the wellness of the organization. That’s not the culture I want to create, and it’s not the culture I want to work in. I want to believe in the cause, the values, the mission, and the purpose of the place I belong to. When I join a company, I want to join it wholeheartedly, giving it my 100%. That’s the right, ethical, moral, and smart way to live. It is also the Biblical way, that in whatever you do, you do it as unto the Lord.
In closing, I want to say that it is not my intention to call those who left our team recently disloyal. That would be judgmental. I choose not to place judgement on others. They had reasons I may not understand. I wish them success.
My challenge to us as leaders is to define what loyalty means, clarify our expectations, and try to live by the high ideals we set. My personal goal is to lead like David in the Bible, with integrity of heart.