Tuesday, June 7, 2016

When loyalty becomes a threat to an organization

We all want loyal staff, particularly to the mission of the organization we lead or are a part of. However, that very important element can become a problem when leaders choose staff members primarily on the basis of loyalty to them.

Recently I had a first hand glimpse into an organization that does great work. But there was one key staff member who caused me puzzlement. He had poor interpersonal skills, did not empower others below him, made snap decisions and created major consternation for about half of the staff who served at his direction. Don't get me wrong, he was a great individual but was in a spot that everyone seemed to know was not designed for him.

As I asked around about this individual and a few others the consistent answer I received was this: The leader of the organization values personal loyalty above all other qualities. And by this they meant loyalty first to him. Thus he would choose leaders based on their personal connection with him regardless of that individuals qualifications for their role. In doing so, he inadvertently disempowered those who had to work for these loyal but miscast staff members.

That loyalty also fostered a "yes person" culture as these staffers tended to not challenge the thoughts of the leader as loyalty to them was taken as agreement. Thus the concept of robust dialogue was not fostered at the top of the organization and subsequently throughout the organization.

What fascinated me was that this was a healthy organization overall and the challenges it had internally almost always went back to one of these leaders who was chosen for their loyalty. Not because they were not good people but because they were in the wrong spot for their gifts and had been chosen for the wrong reasons - loyalty to the leader irregardless of their qualifications for the role.

Competence for ones role needs to come first along with loyalty to the mission and respect for leadership. But when personal loyalty or long term relationship with the senior leader is the primary qualification for leadership in the organization this loyalty factor becomes a threat to the organization as a whole.

TJ Addington of Addington Consulting has a passion to help individuals and organizations maximize their impact and go to the next level of effectiveness. He can be reached at tjaddington@gmail.com.

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