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Leaders either demand loyalty or inspire it. I believe that loyalty can be demanded at times but not for a long period of time. People understand that leaders make decisions that can benefit them and people can be loyal in exchange for those benefits. Transactional loyalty is limited because it treats loyalty like a currency. When circumstances change, the loyalty shifts. Some people like this mercenary mindset because it’s easy and predictable. Unfortunately, this predictability is tied to the predictable limit of benefits that can be exchanged and can run out or be outbid. That is not great for a team dynamic.
Loyalty is an attribute of a great teammate. In fact, I believe a teammate cannot be considered great if they are not loyal. It does little good to assess the loyalty of others on the team. That will become evident at the next fork in the road. The best I can do is ask myself how loyal am I? Am I committed to my team and teammates? It’s easy to say yes, but looking back did I make the right decision at the past forks in the road? Did I gossip when given the opportunity? Did I allow others to do so? Did I betray trust to get ahead? Did I actively make choices that would undermine my relationship or team goals? Did I put my reputation before my association with others? None of us are loyal all of the time but just like everything else, we improve what we track.
I find myself tested in the area of loyalty most when my reputation is at stake. I am a Laker fan and it’s usually good to be one but every once in a while, the Lakers don’t do well. Am I a fair weather fan that only pulls for my team when they win or do I stick it out during the Sedale Threatt era (the time between Magic and Kobe)? Sports loyalty is trivial but it can be an analogy for my loyalty in other areas. Am I a fair weather friend? Do I step away from a teammate to make sure I don’t get struck by the lightning that I sense is coming thier way? Do I speak up when others talk about them when they are not around? Is saying nothing a betrayal? Perhaps not, but what would I want them to do for me if the circumstances were reversed? The golden rule applies here…every time.