Does Loyalty Still Matter?
Late last year we lost two Berry stalwarts; Jerry Paprocki and Ed Barnowski. As I reflected on both of their careers I couldn’t help but to be reminded of their fierce loyalty to both Berry, their peers and subordinates. Caring about our employees began with our founder LM Berry and was handed down to each successive generation of leaders! And while our culture defined our uniqueness, one cannot help wonder if it would still qualify today when society is losing the sense of loyalty as one of the most important principles in our lives because we have simply stopped practicing it.
Is loyalty defined differently today than it was during my career? Is it the same loyalty that guaranteed lifetime employment that my generation believed was our inalienable right? No, it’s different! There is strong evidence that mutual disloyalty is not exclusive to the work place. The lack of loyalty has extended far beyond business impacting family, church, school, government, community and every aspect of our society.
Timothy Keiningham and Leran Akosky are professional associates of mine whom I collaborated with on research for my book, “10 Truths about Leadership, It’s Not About Winning”. In their recently published book, “Why Loyalty Matters”, they suggest that, without us knowing it, the world has shifted from a society of long-term relationships to a society of transactional relationships and ephemeral contacts. This is a natural byproduct of an increasing dynamic economic environment in which we live. They suggest we have become more flexible and more mobile, which has made business more efficient. And while this has made us wealthier, it has also made us less loyal!
As leaders we must realize that loyalty no longer emerges from blind obedience. The reality is people don’t stay in one job, nor should they. Marriages do fail, and abusive ones should end. Companies do fail, sometimes because of bad management and in others the marketplace isn’t buying what they are selling. Loyalty just doesn’t happen. Being loyal is a deliberate act. Making loyalty a driving force in your organization is never easy. We’ve got to give employees a sense of purpose, a set of principles, vision, and an environment where we can help them get what they want. We all want to part of something special, something bigger than ourselves. To that end every significant relationship should be treated as if it will last a lifetime, and be important to mutual success.
I can quote form countless books, periodicals and case studies, but in the end, I believe most of us want to be loyal to something other than ourselves. But to unlock the power of loyalty we need clarity regarding “how loyal” we really are, and “to what” we are loyal to? It only happens when we amplify the quality of our lives through that joy that can only come from having friends, family, co-workers, and others who are willing to bond with us. It is the collection of those positive loyal connections that make strong organizations and strong relationships.