C-Suite Insider Tips: Loyalty Is Key to Leading Successfully Today

Editor’s Note: Veteran entrepreneur and investor Donald Thompson writes a weekly column on management and leadership as well as diversity and other important issues for WRAL TechWire. His columns are published on Wednesdays.


RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – Below are two separate quotes on faithfulness:

“The strength of a family, like the strength of an army, lies in its loyalty to one another.”

“For many today, the meaning is new money. This is what people are looking for at work. Clear company values, translated into the daily work experience, are one of the most powerful drivers of an engaged workforce ready to collaborate successfully.

For pop culture fans, you’ll recognize the first as one of dozens of classic lines uttered by Don Corleone in Mario Puzo. The Godfather. In fact, the entire film franchise is based on the idea of ​​loyalty. Given the film’s enduring popularity, loyalty is one of those central themes of storytelling that never goes out of style.

The second looks like a quote from a thought leader today that binds employees to values ​​in a meaningful way – modern and thoughtful. But, make no mistake, the quote actually comes from a harvard business review piece by Tammy Ericksona world-renowned management and leadership thinker, 2011!

We think the merging of culture and business results is new, but as Erickson demonstrates, it’s long been an important topic. The past few years have shown that “meaning is fresh money” is even more central to how people view their lives.

How do we come from The Godfather in the early 1970s and Erickson in the 2010s to today? Well, let’s think about how C-suite leaders can use loyalty as a secret recipe for success.

Adam Pacifico from his LinkedIn site

I’ve thought about this and discussed it with other executives at board meetings and in my coaching practice. Loyalty was also a main theme in my recent discussion with Adam Pacificopartner of Heidrick and the struggles in London, authorand host of The leadership conundrum podcast. What I learned is that loyalty as a tool of leadership can be used as the foundation for greatness.


As in The Godfather, loyalty is usually viewed in terms of the deeply personal relationships we have with our partners, parents, family, and close friends. We think highly of people who are loyal through thick and thin, and loyalty is often a badge of honor, like the long-suffering sports fan whose home team rarely wins year after year. Most people have one or more store or brand loyalty cards hanging from their key rings. On the other end of the spectrum, being disloyal – think of Benedict Arnold and other spies in history – is an almost unforgivable sin.

Applying loyalty as a “secret sauce” for leaders, I think it’s best to think of the idea as the complete work environment of each employee, not just what the leader and the organization think of. them, but their entire view of the world which encompasses their managers, colleagues, co-workers and the company itself. In the best sense of the word, professional loyalty is a mutually beneficial agreement where the employee and the organization experience safety, respect and admiration that lead to powerful teamwork and collaboration that leads to organizational success.

As a leader, seeing loyalty as a mental model or key framework helps you personalize the employee experience in your organization, so that each individual can request and receive the tools, resources, and support they need to do his best. And, remember here, we’re not defaulting on an “oath of loyalty,” a locked-in definition of the term that means total devotion to an idea, person, or institution without the ability to question, think freely, or challenge. In fact, the current version of loyalty is the exact opposite.

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As a leader, you are building an employee-centric company, which means adapting your management style to meet the needs of each employee. You listen to the diverse identities and life experiences of your employees, in order to give them what they need to succeed. And, because you create a leadership infrastructure based on the central ideals of loyalty (trust, mutual respect, shared goals), your colleagues and employees are empowered to speak up when your ideas and tactics don’t get the job done right. Not only do they feel that they should talk, but they feel constrained because that’s what’s best for the business.

Authentic Loyalty doesn’t create cliques or a cult of personality around the C-suite. Rather, it focuses on creating high-octane learning and feedback loops that drive real culture change in the business. whole organization. A culture built on loyalty also has real value – it drives the bottom line.


Retention is not a management fad and certainly not a checkbox in a workplace survey. The stakes are too high in a tight labor market and as leaders nervous about inflation tighten their belts. As a C-suite leader, you must have the intention to create loyalty and then work to foster it throughout the organization.

Remember Erickson’s statement, “money is the new meaning”. Workers are not mercenaries. A retention bonus or pay raise won’t keep a disgruntled person in their seat for long. Employees want to be happy, empowered, and feel their contributions matter, especially your key leaders and teammates.

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Here is a roadmap for a loyalty-driven leader to begin this essential work:

  • Building Trust: Loyalty is built one conversation at a time. Getting feedback is essential, especially considering that most people have been conditioned to acquiesce to their “superiors.” Be specific in praise and recommendations for improvement.
  • Recognize and Appreciate: There are many excuses not to thank those who created the environment to win. The loyalty-driven leader will seek out these people because their commitment is essential for future success.
  • Connect to goals: Employees, managers, future executives, and your most experienced leaders all have options. You can give someone $10,000 to sit still, but are you really to hold onto their? A best-case scenario is to understand their personal and professional goals and find a way to achieve them together.

Leadership has changed in recent years due to unprecedented challenges that have pushed anxiety levels through the roof for employees, communities and workplaces. As executives, we need to adapt our styles to focus on flexibility and resilience as a counterbalance to chaos. Loyalty follows after the foundations laid by intention and authenticity. A C-suite leader who follows the loyalty roadmap will see gains in areas that move the needle, from increased productivity to better retention.

In my conversation with Adam, he quoted Don Amaechi, the former NBA star who is now a renowned organizational psychologist and author, who said, “Leadership costs a lot of energy.” It was an enlightening moment for both of us. My answer is that as leaders we have to be willing to pay the fees to achieve the outcome we want.

If we have loyalty as a central facet of our culture, then we are better equipped at all levels to face challenges, make adjustments and work together to win.

About the Author

Donald Thompson is CEO and co-founder of The diversity movement who created a suite of employee experience products that personalize diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) through data, technology and expert-curated content. Their microlearning platform, Microvideos by The Diversity Movementwas recently named one of fast companyWorld Changing Ideas 2022.” With two decades of experience growing and leading businesses, Donald is a thought leader on achieving goals, influencing company culture and driving exponential growth. Entrepreneur, speaker, author, podcaster, Certified Diversity Executive (CDE) and executive coach, Donald is also a board member of several organizations in marketing, healthcare, banking, technology and sports. . His leadership memoirs, Underrated: A CEO’s Unlikely Path to Success, is available for pre-order. Connect or follow him on LinkedIn to learn more.

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