Sometimes At Work, We Act Like Dogs

You can only buy loyalty if you buy a dog; otherwise loyalty has to be earned.  One of the best things an engineering manager can receive from their team members is loyalty.  It's not something that you should ever ask of them, but they may just give it to you anyway.  When you have people that are loyal to you that means you built credibility and trust with them to the degree that they want to follow your leadership.  In some cases, following your leadership is the easiest way for them to do their jobs because they are so aligned to your way of thinking.  As a manager, you should ask yourself, if you moved to a new role or team, would any of the people in your current team follow you there?  To what distance would they follow you?  Would they follow you if you moved to a team close to your current one?  What about if you moved to a whole new division (assuming you are in a large corporation with multiple divisions)?  What if you moved companies?  Is this a good way to measure your leadership skills?  Well, although you may assume my answer is yes, I actually think it depends.  Look at who is loyal to you and see how diverse that group is.  Many times, leaders have loyalty because they form a clique or a club with specific people in their team, people who are similar to them, that they can form the strongest connection with.  Those people are favored and have a connection with the leader that others don’t have.  So you may seem like a great leader to those people that are in your “club”.  But those people who aren’t have now been excluded and ignored.  A great leader is one that doesn’t need a club to have loyalty and when they figure out who is loyal to them, they find it’s a varying group of diverse individuals and not just people who are similar to themselves.  Gaining credibility, trust, and eventually loyalty from many different and diverse people truly shows your ability as a leader.

Also consider, loyalty may not be a good thing to have in your team when it results in your team members blindly following your leadership.  I highly value people questioning why and how we do things on my team and even challenging me when I suggest things. I definitely don't have all the right answers, but if my people just blindly follow my direction, not only does that put a huge burden on me, but it potentially causes us it miss heading in a more appropriate direction.

Loyalty shouldn’t be the focus for a good leader.  Credibility, honesty and accountability should drive how you lead and if loyalty is an end result, then that’s great.  But it shouldn’t be the goal.  And from the individual’s perspective, here’s why you should consider whether or not to place your loyalty with just one leader.  I found my best resources for advice and career growth are my old bosses (or leaders).  Considering my company likes to reorg a lot, I have a lot of previous bosses.  I learned to adapt to each one's managerial style and I learned something from each one of them (even though in some cases I didn't realize what I learned until years later).  I rely on this group of managers for advice, career growth conversations, and sometimes to help me get connected with others to drive tactical issues.  Having those connections make it easier to get things done without having to be in a club.  I enjoyed working for many of my previous managers, and although they had my loyalty temporarily because they showed me they were accountable, credible, and trustworthy, I didn't blindly follow their directions or follow them to other teams.  I worked hard while on their teams, I asking tough questions and helped drive direction, and got the team to produce the end results needed.  And for many of them, I'd work for them again if the situation arises.  But more importantly, I'm glad I have their diverse perspectives to pull from when needed.  And if I had instead applied my loyalty and dedication to one of them, and followed that person as they moved throughout the company, I would have missed out on further experiences and learnings I received from other teams I went to and the other bosses that I had.

So loyalty can be a tricky thing.  In small doses, it may be exactly what is needed.  And good for you if you found a manager that you want to be loyal to!  But having a team that is too loyal or you yourself being too loyal to one manager can have its downsides.

Here are some interesting quotes about loyalty:
“When you're part of a team, you stand up for your teammates. Your loyalty is to them. You protect them through good and bad, because they'd do the same for you.”
Lawrence Peter "Yogi" Berra (born 1925);  Former Professional Baseball Player and Manager
“If you work for a man, in heaven's name work for him! If he pays you wages that supply you your bread and butter, work for him - speak well of him, think well of him, stand by him and stand by the institution he represents. I think if I worked for a man I would work for him. I would not work for him a part of the time, and the rest of the time work against him. I would give an undivided service or none. If put to the pinch, an ounce of loyalty is worth a pound of cleverness.”
Elbert Hubbard (1856-1915);  Philosopher, Author, Publisher
“I'll take fifty percent efficiency to get one hundred percent loyalty.”
Samuel Goldwyn (1882-1974);  U.S. Film Producer
“You can buy a person's hands but you can't buy his heart. His heart is where his enthusiasm, his loyalty is.”
Stephen R. Covey (born 1932);  Motivational Writer
“Promises are the uniquely human way of ordering the future, making it predictable and reliable to the extent that this is humanly possible.”
Hannah Arendt (1906-1975);  Political Philosopher, Writer, Educator
“The scholar does not consider gold and jade to be precious treasures, but loyalty and good faith.”
Confucius (551-479);  Philosopher
Quotes pasted from