Sunday, June 08, 2008

Leadership and Loyalty

"When we are debating an issue, loyalty means giving me your honest opinion, whether you think I'll like it or not. Disagreement, at this stage, stimulates me. But once a decision has been made, the debate ends. From that point on, loyalty means executing the decision as if it were your own." - General Colin Powell

For me, it's comforting to know that when a decision is finally made based on the input from others, there will be no team members scoffing or balking at the final decision. To know the team makes it their own is a comfort. By General Powell's definition, loyalty sounds a lot like submission. Loyalty I see as more of a devotion to a cause, philosophy or person. Loyal to a fault would be placing that devotion above other, more important morals. Loyalty is often driven by emotion; like love for a person or ideal. Submission is driven by desire to adhere to principle or law; either man's or God's. They often overlap or intermingle. But to plead your case and then follow the decision of another as your own is submission when the decision is made by someone who is higher in authority; and it's loyalty when adherence to authority is optional and/or driven by emotional desire to follow. Just my thoughts off the top of my head. I could be wrong.
I guess it does boil down to an individual’s perceived definition of loyalty.
I think you could still define what he's talking about as loyalty even by your great point of seeing loyalty as devotion to a cause. I would think in the context Powell is talking about, everyone on the team is devoted to the cause, however, you lose loyalty when people frame a decision made to those around them as one that is "silly" or "stupid".
Whether driven by a desire to adhere to a principle or law (man's or God's) it's comforting for me as a leader to know I've got folks on my team with me that will be "on my side" when the chips are down and the decision has been made. (And of course that decision has to be morally correct...not immoral).
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