The price and illusion of loyalty
Dave Durand says that loyal employees and customers are key to successful business. He contends that we can learn a lot of business lessons from the apostles. John was loyal to Christ throughout His ministry. Peter was disloyal, but repented. Judas was disloyal, but did not repent. A humble person is always loyal, but one who pushes blame is not . . .
Loyalty is a word that is used often in the business community. Establishing loyal customers is always a challenge and a worthy pursuit. Creating a culture of loyal employees also has its serious and obvious benefits.
Are there really loyal people out there? A skeptic would argue that true, free loyalty is not achievable. He might even add that “everyone has a price,” insinuating that, given enough money, power, or pain, everyone’s loyalty can be purchased or stolen.
To my mind, the most challenging ideas are those which contain enough truth to be nearly undeniable, yet have enough error to destroy their entire theory; the question of true loyalty is one of those ideas. I’m not alone in that I have experienced plenty of betrayal. When people experience betrayal — or even mild forms of disloyalty — they can become jaded, but that is a mistake.
We can learn a lot about loyalty from the apostles. The entire spectrum is represented by the twelve. On one end there is Judas, who put on a good show but lacked loyalty at the highest level. He positioned himself as the kind of guy who was dedicated to Jesus and concerned about the poor, yet his facade was merely a front to hide the fact that he was a thief. Judas traded in his eternal well-being for a few coins. On the surface, his story confirms the skeptic’s theory, but fortunately for us, God’s grace can lift even the lowest heart. In fact, God empowers loyalty beyond comprehension.
On the opposite side of the spectrum is St. John, a great example of supernatural loyalty. His loyalty was stronger than fear. Despite seeing Jesus arrested, falsely accused, scourged, mocked, beaten and crucified, John stayed at the foot of the cross. He must have feared that he too might suffer the same fate by association. His loyalty is not common.
Next to John on the spectrum, but slightly to his left at the time, is St. Peter. He represents the most common type of dedicated loyalty. Ultimately Peter gave his life for Christ, but he grew into that grace after he denied Him. Jesus knew Peter would be weak at that moment, yet He chose him to be His vicar.
What did Jesus see in Peter that we might have failed to see in him ourselves? How many of us, as leaders, might have passed by the fisherman during the “interview” process? How many of us would have fired him for the first infraction of disloyalty because we failed to see the desire and commitment he possessed, despite his temporary weaknesses?
Estimating loyalty is one of the least talked about, yet most important leadership skills that must be gained by anyone with subordinates. There are three simple ways that I’ve learned to estimate the loyalty of people I bring into my life at work.
The first is not a character assessment as much as it is an observation of maturity. There are times when new employees or partners express their loyalty in such absolute terms that I can only surmise that they lack the experience to understand what they’re saying. For example, a new employee will say that he’s committed to my company for “life,” yet he has no experience to know what that means. He reminds me of teenagers who marry right out of high school without a complete understanding of what their commitment actually entails. A sober look at what it means to be loyal builds trust. I try to estimate loyalty based on understanding what loyalty actually means beyond the honeymoon. Can the person in question realistically describe what it means to be loyal when push comes to shove? Does she see loyalty as an emotion like joy or does she see loyalty as a decision?
The second way I estimate loyalty is through humility. A humble person is a loyal person. The disadvantage I have is that I can’t read souls or hearts, so I’m limited to objective observations and my “gut.” One way I identify humility that leads to loyalty is by observing people when they make mistakes. Do they openly and readily own them or do they deny them and push the blame on others? People who push blame are never loyal. That is certain.
The third way I estimate loyalty is by eagerness. Loyal people are eager to advance the cause of an organization. They don’t sit back and wait to be told what to do. They don’t wait to care. They simply care. This is a lasting characteristic. It’s an active participation in the mission.
These three “ways” allow for a few mistakes here and there. They allow for the St. Peters out there to make mistakes but also to rise to a new occasion. I love a comeback story, which is why a second or third chance for the right person can be the right approach. In the end, we can all make mistakes on these estimates. But with openness to the gifts of the Holy Spirit we will get it right most of the time.
Dave Durand is the best-selling author of “Perpetual Motivation” and “Win the World Without Losing Your Soul.” He is a business executive and trainer of well over 100,000 individuals in sales, marketing and business management.