In most organizations, the moment you become responsible for leading others, you cross over into the management ranks.
As a member of the executive body, you’re expected to be even more loyal to the company’s values, strategic agenda, and written and unwritten rules. Loyalty is a good thing. By giving it, you gain trust. But the loyalty you give to the company often requires suspending some of your own wants and preferences. Even your own values may have to be compromised, at least to some degree.
Loyalty is something you give—and in exchange for giving your loyalty to the organization, and by extension sublimating your loyalty to self, you get to be more involved in shaping decisions. All of this is to say, loyalty is connected to humility because it requires surrendering some of yourself to the agenda of the executive body.
Balanced against the need to be loyal is the need to be independent-minded. As a leader, you’re expected to assert bold ideas, imaginatively solve problems, and be decisive. At least in healthy organizations, you’re also expected to push back against directives that are unethical, or off-mission, or disconnected from the organization’s values. Being a rebel leader means acting in the organization’s best interest when others aren’t doing so.
Being a Rebel Loyalist means having enough confidence to act with independence, and enough humility to put the interests of the organization above your own.
Here are some tips to help you become a Rebel Loyalist:
- Be loyal to the rebel founder—If you go back far enough in your organization’s history, you’ll likely find someone who bucked convention, went against the tide, and did something disruptive in the marketplace. Know that rebel’s story. What rules did he or she break? What did he or she have to sacrifice in order to create the organization? How did loyalty factor into his or her success?
- Check your beliefs—Which beliefs have you adopted without scrutiny? How were those beliefs shaped, and who or what shaped them? Having independence of thought requires codifying your own beliefs. Answer this key question: What do you truly believe about what it takes to lead people?
- Determine whom you are with, and who is with you—Just as critical as the ancient question “Who am I?” is the question “Whom am I with?” Who at work stands with you when situations go south? Whom can you be yourself around, without fear of being judged? Who always has your back? Stick with those people. Find more like them. Build a posse worthy of your loyalty.
- Get clear on the rules and the exceptions— Check to see if your organization has a code of ethics. If so, scrutinize them from the inside out. Understand why each individual code was included. Learn what extenuating circumstances or exceptions would fall outside the code.
Applying these tips into your leadership practice will help you find the balance as a Rebel Loyalist.
“If I only had a little humility, I would be perfect.” — Ted Turner
Since 1991 Bill has conducted over 500 corporate workshops designed to strengthen people’s leadership skills, improve team performance, accelerate innovation, and help executives behave more courageously. Among his clients are Accenture, Saks Fifth Avenue, UBS Bank, SPANX, Walsh Construction, Hugo Boss, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. Forest Service, the National Science Foundation, and the U.S. Veteran’s Administration. Bill’s insights about courage and risk-taking have been featured in over 100 newspapers and magazines, including the Washington Post, NY Daily News, Chicago Tribune, Atlanta Journal Constitution, Boston Herald, Woman’s Day, Redbook, Fitness, and The Harvard Management Update.