Leadership Series VIII – DISLOYALTY
The EIGHTH of Napoleon Hill’s 10 Major Causes of Failure in Leadership is DISLOYALTY.
“Perhaps this should have come at the head of the list. Leaders who are not loyal to their trust and to their associates – those above and below them – cannot long maintain their leadership. Disloyalty marks people as being less than the dust of the earth, and brings down on their head the contempt they deserve. Lack of loyalty is one of the major causes of failure in every walk of life.”
Make it plain Napoleon! Here we have arrived at the crux of the matter it seems. Hill clearly sees disloyalty in any form as being the root cause of failure in leadership and in life. While each and every one of us understands the negative impact of disloyalty, we all manage to participate in it to varying degrees.
By definition, according to our friends at dictionary.com, disloyalty applies to any violation of loyalty, whether to a person, a cause, or one’s country, and whether in thought or in deeds. I will take this a step further by suggesting that the beginning of all disloyalty lies in disloyalty to oneself – to our core values, our intentions (often good), our commitments, and our beliefs.
Is loyalty, in general, important? Yes, I believe that Hill is right in stressing this point. Loyalty, as long as it is healthy, is a glue that holds together relationships, families, businesses, communities, and humankind. When the loyalty that we extend to others is betrayed or at not reciprocated, it can feel terrible, right to our core. We are offended, hurt, angry, embarrassed and, at times, feel the need to seek retribution.
When we are disloyal, we should feel, well, bad. If we have a conscience and are open to listening to it, our acts of disloyalty should jolt us back to being on the right path. Most acts of disloyalty begin within our own minds and hearts. The seeds start in our far-too-active minds, with each disloyal thought giving us slightly more permission to open the door to a potential disloyal act. Then with each disloyal act, slightly more permission is granted for the next act, gradually eroding our integrity. Whether this is true for everyone, I cannot say, but has certainly been true for me.
The willingness and ability to betray truth to oneself allows us to move on to the next step of demonstrating disloyalty to others. Not for one second do I believe that human nature is ‘bad’ or fallen. In fact, we all begin with child-like innocence and openness to experience the world from the vantage point of our true selves. As we grow and experience life, a slow and constant shift of ownership away from our inherent truth and constancy toward our ego-led false selves occurs. It is huge part of how we navigate the reality of our lives and seek to respond. It is also how we find our place in the world.
For most of us, this is not the beginning of some sort of sociopathic unravelling of our thoughts and behaviours. Rather, as we carve out our place in the world and learn to protect ourselves from difficulty, danger, and traumas there are subtle changes at our very core. It seems as if our capacity to be disloyal grows as we navigate the minefield of life, and if left unchecked, can begin to dominate our motivations, thoughts, and deeds. It is all very natural, very real, and requires constant management, for some more than others.
If I am honest, I have to admit to being disloyal in varying degrees to self, family, colleagues, employers, and even the government throughout my life. Some instances more serious than others, but true nonetheless. I feel shame as I unpack all of those instances but understand the need to be gentle with myself as I re-commit, over and over again, to get back on course and to mature.
As mentioned in previous posts, it is vital that we understand that we are human, and part of our imperfect human condition is that no one can be perfectly loyal to everything 100% of the time. Our humanity requires that we be aware and accept our shadow as well as our light, offering up understanding and compassion to that reality as we navigate the circumstances of our lives.
Perhaps I am too much an idealist, but I refuse to see these matters as black or white. While I agree that our actions have consequences, some of them severe, and that we all have ultimate responsibility for our acts of disloyalty, I refuse to see those guilty of it to be “less than the dust of the earth” as Hill does.
Yes, we have to own our shit. No, we are not our shit, we are human beings who are worthy of understanding, forgiveness, and compassion as we work to make amends to those we have wronged. Then we must demonstrate that we have learned and undergone some level of transformation.
In terms of leadership, disloyalty can be quite subtle and under the surface, or blatantly obvious. It can manifest as a gentle erosion of adherence to company guiding principles, core focus, and mutually agreed upon objectives. As Hill states, we can demonstrate disloyalty to those further up the chain of command as well as to those on the same level and/or to those we are responsible for. It can be as insidious as griping or gossip behind someone’s back, it can result in ongoing ill-will and conflict between individuals or departments. In its most overt form, disloyalty can result in outright sabotage of company or individual efforts.
One aspect that resonates with me is how we must strive to be loyal in all directions, including up the chain. Those in ‘middle management’ have to walk the tightrope between being loyal to their bosses, while building trust and loyalty with those they lead. Managing up is as important, or more so than managing ‘down’. This is no easy task, and the vast majority of us do the loyalty dance daily. I have learned this the hard way and having to stick handle this conundrum in one stage of my career left me broken.
Leadership can be a very lonely place, where those brave enough to lead subject themselves to getting it from all sides. The higher the position, the bigger the title, the larger the target. It’s open season, but it comes with the territory. All leaders must expect and be aware of this fact.
Our current culture and the technology that supports it have created a massive platform for criticizing, belittling, bullying, and threatening those in leadership positions of any kind. Disloyalty, it seems, is now very easy and fully anonymous. It is par for the course, and I don’t believe that it is healthy for our communities and society as a whole, let alone for the individuals it impacts. This is not to say that leaders need to be protected or pitied, but it appears that disloyalty has become a fully sanctioned sport.
As those around me are sick of hearing, I find it has become far too easy to spout off about what we are against, especially governments, with no commensurate responsibility to articulate what it is that we are actually for. It seems that we have all embraced the dominant culture of open complaint, criticism, and disloyalty to whomever we choose, with impunity and without personal responsibility. Sorry, just had to get that off my chest!
Right, so what is that I can offer in terms of antidote for disloyalty in leaders?
· Loyalty is the glue that holds the foundations of our communities, our relationships, our families, and our businesses together. Informed loyalty is good. Blind loyalty is dangerous.
· Leaders should not and cannot expect or demand loyalty. As with respect and trust, loyalty is earned.
· Healthy dissent and discussion is a positive thing within the organization as long as it remains objective and professional. It is not a sign of disloyalty, but rather demonstrates a high level of caring for the common good of the company.
· If you find yourself in a position where you are not able to act with loyalty to all those in the workplace, you must be honest with yourself and take appropriate action. Either you can get back on the path required of you, or you must look to remove yourself from the situation before you do any further damage.
· Demonstrate understanding and exercise compassion for yourself and those around you. It is not possible for any human to completely avoid disloyalty. It will show itself in some form, at some point, at some level of severity. It just will.
· Be brutally honest with yourself in seeing a situation involving disloyalty and how you are responding to it. Take corrective action as required to stem the tide of disloyalty before it does too much damage.
· Promote a healthy culture that results in alignment and engagement. Fill the business with people who share your core values at the deepest possible level and who are desirous of living them out.
· Make communication open, honest, professional, two-way. Be willing to accept feedback and criticism no matter how much it hurts. Make your workplace a safe zone for sharing opinions with impunity. Nip disloyalty in the bud before it reaches any level of toxicity.
· You may have to leave a job or a relationship if you are no longer able to remain loyal for whatever reason. Or, suck it up if you can, but that rarely is healthy for anyone in the longer term.
· Accept that things will change and evolve; and while we might not like it, loyalties can shift as circumstances, ourselves, and others change. That is just life no matter how shitty it can feel.
Why not finish with another quote from the Enneagram Institute! Seems to be trend coming from me as I continue my own ‘work’. Note that in the quote below you can substitute ‘spiritual path’ for any word or phrase that resonates with you, although I do think ‘spiritual path” applies nicely to our discussion of disloyalty and captures just how difficult it is to remain loyal to whatever it is we value.
“If we are honest about being on a spiritual path, every day we must embody the truths that we understand—indeed, every moment of every day. We must learn to ‘walk our walk’ in every area of our lives. And yet, how are we to do this? Like everyone else (particularly at the beginning of our Work), we are riddled with bad habits, old wounds, and unresolved conflicts. Our intention alone to be on a spiritual path will not be enough to make much of a difference. “(The Wisdom of the Enneagram, 348)
Loyalty matters, we are humans, we are going to screw up; but we must learn, grow, and continue our ‘work’ toward loyalty to our true selves, others, and all that our values hold dear.
Until next time!