Loyalty, Truth, and Leadership

by Lee Buford on November 23, 2010

Loyalty and truth are two of the most desired aspects in any relationship, organization, or company. We want to know that others have our back, that they are real with us, and they are all-in, no matter what.

How we define loyalty and truth goes a long way toward determining the value of each, and how we see ourselves clearly blurs the picture. We demand unconditional loyalty from others, yet we offer conditional loyalty in return. All of us do it at one point or another, pledging our allegiance as long as our needs and expectations are met.

Truth is similar in its elusiveness and conditionality. I once heard the Senior Vice-President of Sales in my own company, when asked the about the most difficult or challenging part of his job, respond with the following answer:

“When you get to my level in an organization the most difficult thing is to find out the truth about anything. Everyone is going to tell you what they think you want to hear.”

He’s right, and the challenge applies to individual relationships, families, friendships, and other organizations as well. If you’re in a leadership role, or any position of authority, people will tell you what they think you want to hear…not necessarily the truth. If you’re the leader you need to know the truth. Reality and honesty are crucial to making correct assessments and decisions.

What you need are loyal people who are willing to tell you the truth, whether it’s what you want to hear or not. You need people who have your best interests, and those of the organization at large, at heart. Loyal people are willing to sacrifice their personal standing for the greater good, regardless of the potential outcome. And loyal people are a rare breed.

If you’re in a position of leadership you should treasure, encourage, and applaud such people. The last thing you need is another “yes man” to feed your ego and bolster your pride. You need a loyal confidant who cares for your soul, and that of the organization, one who will fight against pride in pursuit of humble, servant leadership. These people are the only loyal players on the team, and they’re the only source you have for the truth that will make or break you and your team.

Do you surround yourself with loyal people who encourage and motivate you to be a better leader and shepherd of your followers? Do you value truth, even when it conflicts with with your personal ambitions, goals, or self-interests?

Loyalty and truth are out there, but you’ve got to want them. You’ve got to surround yourself with genuine people of sound character who will hold you accountable along the way. Or you can continue to look around at a bunch of nodding heads who seek only YOUR approval and loyalty. The choice is yours.

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