As a leader it is so important to have people around you who are loyal. They are willing to support you in what you do, work longer than asked to finish something, find a creative solution to a problem, and a host of other things that make leading them a real treat. It’s exciting to have a group of loyal folks around you, but how do you get to that point?

Sure I could go on about the benefits of loyalty, but if you are just getting started or don’t exactly have the loyalty you want/need I would only serve to frustrate you even more. So I’m left with the question, “How do you get loyalty?” This is especially important if you’re stepping into a place where mistrust has ruled the day for any significant amount of time.

It’s important to understand that there is an expressed request for self sacrifice in loyalty. If you don’t understand this, you’ll not be too successful at gaining the loyalty of many people…if anyone at all. How can you recognize loyalty if things are done when they’re easy and anyone can do it? There must be some element of inconvenience and self sacrifice for loyalty to even exist.

Let’s be honest, people aren’t going to just do this out of the goodness of their heart. Sure you may be fortunate to have 1 or 2 people who will do that extra bit and sacrifice their time and efforts but most likely that is based on their work ethic and not on their loyalty to you. Loyalty is something that is important, but we seem to struggle with the balance of accountability (prescriptive) and developing loyalty (voluntary). Loyalty is nothing more than an exercise in leadership.

We go on about leading by example. We say we need to do the thing that we wish most to see done by others in order to lead them. I think you can see where I’m going with this. We can’t expect anyone to be loyal to us until we have been loyal to them first. We want them to be loyal to what is important to us (or the organization), but what do you know about what is important to them?

Have you done some self sacrificing to try and help them to achieve something that was important to them? It doesn’t have to be earth shattering, just important. Did you stay late to pick up a bit of slack so they could go to their kid’s sporting event or school function? Did you work a little extra hard so they could take care of their sick family member for a few days?

It’s so important that we, as leaders, give the very thing we wish to get from others. We will just be viewed as some selfish hypocrite if we expect from others something we aren’t willing to do ourselves. It’s poor leadership and it’s ineffective. If you want people to be loyal to you then you have to put some skin in the game first. Show them loyalty and concern for what is important to them. It will come back to you. Even if it doesn’t, you are doing the right thing as a leader. We don’t do to get, we do because it’s the right thing to do. Getting something in return is just the bonus.

Asking the self sacrificial act of loyalty is a big ask, but it also provides an opportunity for a leader to show genuine concern for others. Don’t begrudge the self sacrificing needed to make these things happen. Celebrate the opportunity to exemplify the very behavior that will make your team and organization the best it can be!