Dr. Mark Rutland's 'Loyalty in Leadership'

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In criticizing the wisdom and ability of a superior, a subordinate lowers himself. Logic dictates that the lesser works for the greater. Therefore if the boss is the champion nitwit of all time, what kind of people would work for him? If the boss is an all-around great person of tremendous insight and wisdom, the happy conclusion is that surely he showed wisdom in his hiring decisions. When I lift up my boss, I am lifted up. When I brag on my wife, I shall be held in honor by others. If I speak of her disloyally, others will agree with me that she certainly is stupid, stupid enough to marry me! Likewise, if my parents are the village idiots, well, they raised me.


Loyalty must function both upwardly and downwardly. Upward loyalty is shown to our superiors. It is being willing for them to get the credit while we take the blame. This is the key to corporate loyalty. If the middle-level employee, with subordinates beneath him and superiors above him, shows any disloyalty, the fabric of community in that corporate structure begins to shred.

The CEO of every corporation should periodically invite someone to teach his employees about corporate loyalty. They must know how to deflect praise and admiration onto the boss while being willing to accept the blame when things go badly.

I have sometimes had the unfortunate experience of calling someone's office only to have a secretary say, "I don't know where he is. Many times he doesn't even come in until 10 or 11 o'clock. I guess he's playing golf somewhere."

That is a blatant disloyalty, a deliberate attempt by that secretary to make her boss look bad. Perhaps it is an attempt to convey that she is working while the boss plays. It may also be an effort to prove her own value. Perhaps she is saying, "I don't know what my boss would do without me."

Upward loyalty helps to fulfill the superior's dreams. Lower-level managers are generally not hired to be visionaries. Any institution must operate on only one vision. An obvious example of this is an ambassador. Ambassadors do not get paid to have opinions, but to clearly communicate for the head of state. When a U.S. ambassador presents himself to a foreign government, no one there cares much about the ambassador's ideas. They only want to know what the president thinks.


Some time ago I went to a certain place of business owned by a man named John. I was there to meet him and several others for lunch. As we waited for our last arrival out in John's reception area, we chatted amiably with John's private secretary, a receptionist and a junior executive. Finally the last of our party arrived, quite late. As he rushed into John's reception area he apologized, "I'm sorry I'm late. My secretary didn't show up, and everything's crazy at my office. I'm having a terrible time with my staff."

John, in whose office we stood, said, "I know exactly how you feel. The worst thing I face is getting good help!" He said this in front of his own staff! I was so surprised that I couldn't keep from looking at his employees' faces. They looked as though they had been slapped. The younger associate literally slumped, and his secretary spun on her heel, went into her office and closed the door rather too loudly.

The receptionist sat down and started pounding her keyboard like Lizzie Borden. I searched John's face for some sign of hostility, and, finding none, I realized that he was not being cruel but insensitive. He had no idea what he had done.

As soon as John and I were alone, I said, "Brother, do you realize you just lacerated three of your employees? You badly hurt your own stock with those people." He was genuinely surprised, but when I rehearsed the scenario for him, the light gradually dawned. I said, "Think about how you would feel if that had happened to you. Your employees felt betrayed. You were disloyal to them. Furthermore, you missed a golden opportunity to strengthen their loyalty to you."

Downward loyalty happens as people at the top say, "I couldn't get this done without my employees."

Bosses should constantly be saying, "Our success is largely due to my great team of associates." They should be praising their employees, not just to their faces, but to other people.

Dr. Mark Rutland's

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