Guest Post: Darren Turner

Loyalty For Dummies

Some time ago, I began a thought about how loyalty is the most important factor in the success of an organization. Due to the twin influences of time and – frankly – laziness, that thought died a slow death and was buried. Well, I made a promise, and a promise is a promise.

The aforementioned promise, how to create loyalty, is a very complex subject and entire courses have been dedicated to teaching people how to lead others and engender loyalty. This is not one of those courses. I do not have the talent, time, tools or temperament to teach everything there is to know about how to get people to commit their loyalty to you. What I can do is talk about what I know. In the end, I think that is all we can really do anyways – speak to what we know, based on our experiences.

In my experience, loyalty is something that is the result of a consistent pattern of behavior – something that allows people to be able to rely on you and have faith in your decision making and future decisions. There are three actions that, in my experience, allow people to give you their loyalty.

  1. Do not lie. The act of lying tells someone that they, because of your nature, cannot trust you. Little lies make people question “if he/she lies about something small, can I trust them with big things?” Large lies make people think “If he/she is willing to lie about something this big, they must lie about small things without compunction.” With that said, you are allowed to be wrong. Being wrong is inevitable when making decisions, especially when you do not have complete information. You are allowed to not know. Nobody has all the answers, and if you are forthright with saying “I don’t know”, it will garner you more respect than pretending to know only to be proven wrong later. Finally, do not punish others for the act of being honest (separate the honesty from the act) – by punishing honesty, you only encourage dishonesty. If you practice honesty and allow others the chance to be honest (even allowing them to correct lies, depending on the situation) then it creates an atmosphere where people are unafraid to tell the truth, even if it is unflattering.
  2. Allow people to make mistakes. When people attempt things that are new, unfamiliar, or uncommon, mistakes will be made. If you want people to be loyal and productive, you have to understand this. Demand that they own and correct their mistakes, yes – but do not punish them for making a mistake when they are performing a task or attempting to develop a skill that they are weak in or do not have. If you create an environment that disproportionately punishes mistakes, you will create an environment where people will only perform tasks that they are comfortable with and you will not see innovation, growth, risk-taking, or professional development. By allowing people to make mistakes (and admitting when you make one), it allows people the freedom to try to improve in ways that may seem unconventional or irregular and it gives them the freedom to attempt new approaches to old problems.
  3. Treat people with the respect you would demand for yourself. I saved this for last because I want you to leave with this point. Treat those around you – not just your employees – with the respect you would want others to treat you with. This doesn’t mean that you coddle people or that you are nice to them. It means that you respect them within the bounds of the relationship enough to treat them as you want to be treated by them. If you are a supervisor, you treat your employees as you want to be treated by someone supervising you. If you are being supervised, you obey orders and accept feedback as you want someone to obey your orders and accept your feedback. By treating everyone with respect and demanding others in your organization do it you establish a network of mutually professional relationships.

Overall, these three things will not assure that you can foster loyalty within your ranks, but they can create a stable foundation for you to apply your own leadership style and learn what methods work best for you.

  • Originally published on LinkedIn at
  • Darren is a dedicated public servant with over 10 years of experience in leading Air Force officers and staff in Aerospace and Leadership Education with a focus in training and leading entry / mid-level personnel, curriculum design and implementation, and human resource management. 

You aren’t in the military anymore.

General George S. Patton, Jr.For any transitioning veteran, this is a phrase you have more than likely heard in your new civilian role. There are times when a ‘military-style’ approach is not called for, though it may be ingrained in your leadership style. By ‘military-style,’ I mean a command and control-centric, authoritarian style of leadership that requires compliance and swift action that is directed, rather than arrived at through consensus.

I’m not a military apologist; far from it. I have studied leadership for the last 14 years and found that there are times and places for the leadership styles most commonly taught and exercised in the military (or the perceptions that people may have of military leadership and decision making styles)…

“Lead me, follow me, or get the hell out of my way” – Patton

In the corporate environment, those opportunities are few and far between. That being said, there is a reason that many officers and enlisted soldiers, sailors, and airmen leave the service and take jobs in the corporate world. Chances are, they have prepared, done the research, studied and graduated with degrees in appropriate fields, and are the first to adopt the company’s modus operandi when it comes to corporate culture.

A colleague recently related a scenario that happened in his workplace that involved an ongoing change initiative they had been spearheading. The executive leadership had critiqued his performance in a perfunctory fashion by admonishing him that, “you aren’t in the military anymore, you can’t just tell people what to do.” Naturally, he was hurt. This individual is a high-performer. He’d chosen to separate from the service voluntarily to pursue a civilian career and had embraced the differences in the cultures willingly. After speaking to him to get a better sense of the situation, I had to agree that the criticism was unwarranted; my friend had followed the process outlined by the company for the change effort, held the appropriate meetings, and not made any decisions without molding consensus (please understand that this is not always the case; stereotypes do exist for a reason).

That single off-the-cuff remark is a disheartening and demoralizing judgment call on the part of a person we (separated/transitioning veterans) should be able to look up to for advice and leadership.

Many times, those quick words are a simple reaction; one that the leader does not realize will have a tangible negative effect on the veteran. That executive leader has many concerns; this one project is not on the top of her priority list, so she renders a snap judgment (never a good idea) and harms the veteran’s self-efficacy beliefs in the process.

Advice for the transitioning military or veteran already in the corporate world: don’t immediately fight the stereotype. Allowing yourself to react puts you on the defensive and that is never a good place to attack from. Take the time to understand the perception of your executive leader. What did s/he mean by the statement? What feedback had reached her/him that could have colored her/his perception of your leadership style? Have you been communicating appropriately (managing up)?

By working calmly and intentionally to change the perception of former military, you are helping yourself and the rest of your veteran brothers and sisters by easing an outdated stereotype.