Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Loyalty and Fidelity

I once heard a great man speak on his philosophies of life and leadership. It was an amazing time with lessons that remain burned into my very being. I have had the privileged to witness many great men and many vaulted men (and women) speak. Some have had great things to say peppered throughout their verbiage. Others looked good and had pleasant sounding voices that entranced mindless sheople into nodding assent without critically weighing the word-vomit.

One phrase, however, this particular great man spoke set my mind to thinking. I liked what he said and how he said it. I feel that my own philosophy enabled me to truly hear his words and their meaning. I comprehended. I more than comprehended. I agreed with him long before I heard his words. Given the greatness of his words, I'm using them. This man said "Do not do me the dishonor of agreeing with me. Do not do me the disloyalty of telling me what you think I want to hear. If you are loyal, you will tell me the truth of what you think." Who was this great philosopher? He is none other than General (retired) Colin Powell.

I love that man. He exudes charisma and true leadership. He lives a life that pales the words he speaks. His path is the one not of perfection, but of excellence.

I challenge you to go back and read his words once again. Think about them. When you are ready, if it pleases you, continue taking in my diatribe.

Loyalty is NOT blind faith. Loyalty is NOT blind obedience. If I wanted blind obedience, I'd have a dog. Actually, if such a dog existed, I'd probably put him down for being too dumb to exist. No. that is not cruel. I am pretty sure that most people can agree that a good dog, one with whom you have bonded and trained, is a wonderful companion. Some may even say that you would be hard-pressed to find better companionship. However, even a well-trained, obedient dog will cock his head and look at you like you are a moron if you try to tell it to do something it knows to be a poor decision. That is a good dog.

So, now I ask you, if you are in charge or placed in a position of responsibility, management, or leadership, do you really want those "under" you to be dumber than a dog? Probably not. Dogs are loyal. They are faithful. But they are no blindly obedient. They do not have blind faith. So why surround yourself with idiot people who are?

Leaders cannot lead unless they have the loyalty of the led. That is how it works. The better leaders have followers who criticize the decisions a leader makes. They followers are willing to grant their insight, experience, and thoughts to their chosen leader. They support the leader's ability to make a decision. They do not hamstring the leader by nodding assent and keeping things from the leaders. To do so sets a leader up to become a tyrant. It also leads the way for the led to become sub-human. True loyalty means bearing true faith in the leader to make decisions and to accept the consequences of those decisions, good or poor. True loyalty means supporting those decisions, once made, and assessing how well they worked.

On the other side, leaders need to have fidelity in those they lead. They have to be open to their input. They have to judiciously weigh that input. They owe it to the led to make the most informed and active decision possible, and to execute. If the leaders expect blind obedience and blind faith (which is NOT true faith), then they are tyrants. They will find themselves oppressing the governed into indentured servitude at the end of a gun. They will no longer be followers, but slaves.

Loyalty means you support the leaders' decision. You gave them the responsibility to make those decisions and the authority to execute them. So, do so. But question the decisions in the process. That is true loyalty.

Fidelity means trusting those in your charge to support you with honest data and insight. It means having faith that the led want to accomplish the intended goals. It means faith that they will honestly do so by presenting you with what you need to hear; not what you want to hear.

So, what sort of leader are you? Do want the companionship of a loyal dog (or better, a free-thinking and honest person); or do you prefer the enslaved obedience of a puppet? Do you have fidelity or are you a tyrant? (Tyrants get overthrown, eventually)

What sort of follower are you? Are you a slave? Are you a mindless sub-human drone? Are you a puppet? Or are you a free-thinking human?

Decide.