Monday, 21 November 2016



The difference between personal loyalty, professional loyalty and organisational loyalty and implications for leadership

A  while ago I wrote that I have a couple of ideas for blogs which may be interesting/useful for the Leadership Forum  (list below)  and asked which would people be interested in. The above title got the vote, so here goes…

I always find it interesting to ask “Who do you work for?” and then listen carefully to the response.

The answer may be I work in IT, or I work for the XYZ Organization, or I work for ABC Department. These are all legitimate answers, but in their difference they betray how we identify ourselves and our affiliations. Which tribe(s) we are a member of, and which tribes we regard as “family”.

Similarly “What do you do?” might elicit something about their profession (I’m an accountant), something about their product (I work in a widget factory) or something about their customers (I export widgets for making wodgets faster)

This becomes interesting in organizational dynamics because how we identify ourselves and our contribution will affect our loyalty to our profession, our organization, our product, our customers or our values.

For example, someone who works in Health and Social Care might be expected to have values about patients and caring that outplay other considerations of cost and value. If they are an accountant they might be expected to focus principally on the numbers, value for money etc., over other factors.

However this is too simplistic and stereo-typical. What if they are an accountant in Health and Social Care? Clearly they will feel the need achieve a balance of servicing two masters: their professional obligations (follow the ‘accounting rules’) and their role obligations ensuring the smooth operation of the organization. Usually these things can co-exist happily, but periods of change can bring challenges.

If someone has worked in XYZ Organization, or indeed for ABC Department for 20 years they are likely to have built loyalty to the people, processes and circumstances that surround that dynamic. It therefore seems counter-initiative that they might align themselves to a new leader whose tenure is short and whose tenancy is temporary. Similarly someone fresh to the organization in the absence of well-established roots might gravitate to the new and novel.

The challenge for leaders is to create an environment or narrative that allows people to maintain some stability, to save face, to preserve integrity but potentially to but their efforts in a wholly different direction, potentially with new people, processes and systems and possibly toward a different end.

Leaders like loyalty, but good leaders don’t like “Yes people”. Loyalty is highly valued. But misplaced loyalty is dangerous. Someone who sticks by the rules may be irksome, or have integrity. Someone who bends the rules may be flexible, or untrustworthy. The same circumstances can be seen very differently by others with a different perspective. Is a whistleblower a hero or a villain?

As far as change management goes I have noticed that the organizations who are loyal to the long-established friendships and patterns of behavior are the most difficult to change. Those whose loyalty is independent of the organization (eg happy to be an accountant in any organization)  change most quickly.

The challenge for leadership is to leverage people’s loyalty  (to values, beliefs, relationships) to serve their own ends.  We would recognize that great leaders like Winston Churchill managed to galvanize a nation at a time of war, but failed when it came to peace.

In today’s current geo-political environment we are seeing populations challenge themselves and their leaders about what they believe in, about their purpose and about the ends and means. As we enter a post-Brexit and President Trump era it will be interesting to see the effect of loyalty (to whom and for what) will play a part in what we change and how we change.


Tim Rogers is an AMPG Qualified Change Practitioner, a PRINCE2 Project Manager, with an MBA in Management Consultancy. Past projects have included the incorporation of Ports of Jersey and Operations Change and Sales Support for RBSI and NatWest. He is a tutor/lecturer for the Chartered Management Institute and  a past curator for TEDx (TEDTalks)

Web: http://www.
Twitter: @AdaptCCompany

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