Why Effective Leaders Don't Confuse Loyalty With Trust

10 reasons why trust, not loyalty, works at work today

Posted Feb 26, 2017

King Henry VIII, depicted in the ShowTime series, The Tudors, illustrates a common leadership mistake: insisting on loyalty rather than cultivating trust.

The History Learning Site notes: "Henry frequently overstepped the mark with regards to his suspicions and equated anyone who seemed to question what he believed with disloyalty. Henry could not separate the fact that someone could be totally loyal to the king but could also hold different beliefs to him on certain issues."

While the world has changed from those 16th-century times, some organizational leaders still see loyalty as the golden standard, believing that "faithful or steadfast allegiance" is required to them or the company. However, effective leaders in the 21st-century understand it's not loyalty, but trust, that cultivates work cultures that will create the sustainable results they seek. Here are 10 reasons why:

Public-Domain-Images-free to use-unsplash
Source: Public-Domain-Images-free to use-unsplash

It's trust, not loyalty ...

  1. That enhances innovation, sparks creativity, and creates quicker paths to ideas, methods, and solutions.
  2. That enables real dialogue, evaluates communications, increases understanding, and encourages differing points of view for better decision making.
  3. That creates a safe harbor for meaningful conflict and thoughtful risk-taking that's  needed to build a better future.
  4. That ignites engagement, enabling people at all levels to bring their talents to work.
  5. That creates an environment of accountability and independent problem-solving.
  6. That increases well-being, self-motivation, and big team thinking.
  7. That heightens productivity, contribution, and break-throughs.
  8. That is a magnet for top performers with cultures where they can do great work.
  9. That builds sustainable organizations and significant bottom-line results.
  10. That increases personal commitment, and yes, even builds loyalty as a by-product of mutually beneficial and genuine work relationships.

By contrast, leaders who seek loyalty before trust often find the workplace equivalent of "The Emperor's New Clothes," complete with disengagement, distrust, finger pointing, silos, and organizational intrigue worthy of its own ShowTime special. And all that topped with "cordial hypocrisy," where people act as if they trust each other, but don't.

Effective leaders understand operating with trust is harder than demanding loyalty. But when the people you lead can confidently rely on your behavioral integrity, character, and truth-telling, with confidence, results soar with speed and engagement.

And, there's another reason effective leaders choose trust. Robert F. Hurley, author of The Decision to Trust, put it this way: "The turbulence of outsourcing, mergers, downsizing, and changing business models creates a breeding ground for distrust. Leading in such an environment requires acting in ways that provide clear reasons to decide to trust. There is no returning to the days when organizations expected--and received--unconditional loyalty from employees."

More tips about how to create and operate with trust at work:
•    Successful Leaders Know This Secret About Trust
•    Three Fundamental Rules of Trust
•    Why Don't We Trust Each Other More?
•    What Does Trust "Look Like" at Work?

You'll find more tips and how-tos in my book: Trust, Inc.: How to Create a Business Culture That Will Ignite Passion, Engagement, and Innovation