The Lost Art of Loyalty

By Song Woo, Contributor

Early on in my career I was in a management trainee program for a sales organization I worked for at the time and one of the managers truly took an interest in helping me develop.  He was the first real mentor I had.  I learned a lot about leadership and management from him.  He used a lot of quotes to hammer in his points to me and one of the quotes I’ll never forget is something renowned film producer Samuel Goldwyn once said, “I’ll take fifty percent efficiency to get one hundred percent loyalty.”

My mentor always stressed that loyalty is a lost trait and that if I demonstrate loyalty to whoever I report to or work for; I’ll always have a leg up.  To me, I didn’t see that as an issue because I’ve always been a loyal person, even to a fault.  I owe a lot of my success to all the managers and mentors that have helped me along the way.  The main reason they kept helping me was because I was loyal to them.

Being in a position of leadership now, that quote resonates even more to me than ever before.  Loyalty is a two way street.  Look at it this way, why should your boss devote time and resources to you if you haven’t demonstrated that you are a loyal employee.  You might be saying to yourself, “Well, I show up to work every day, isn’t that demonstrating my loyalty?” No, that’s not enough.  You are not the only one showing up to work and getting paid.  If you truly want to get ahead and advance your career you need to do more.  Every executive I’ve ever spoken to has loyalty at or near the top of the list when it comes to why they would ever want someone in their inner circle and promote them. 

My advice to anyone at a crossroad in their current situation would be to have an open and honest discussion with their manager.  Don’t whine and moan to your peers, this never helps the situation. Have these conversations with your manager no matter how difficult it may be, believe it or not it will strengthen your relationship.  Complaining to your peers will have the opposite effect.  Don’t be naïve and assume your peers care more about your career than your boss.  They don’t, they’re just easier to talk to because of the dynamics of your relationship. 

Loyalty isn’t easy.  In fact it’s very hard.  Every working relationship in business will get tested at some point in time.  Those are the times when your loyalty will be tested.  It’s easy to be loyal when everything is hunky-dory.  However, we are talking about the real world.  Nothing stays the same.  You are going to hit rough patches and it’s easy to jump ship when things get tough.  There are going to be times when the grass may seem greener on the other side.  It’s human nature.  Before you decide on a path of no return (and I’m not talking about just quitting) you should really think things through because your actions or behavior will indicate if you are loyal or not. 

Don’t let your career stall by inadvertently signaling the wrong sign to your boss.  To get ahead, your boss needs to be able to trust you and your loyalty.  Even if you are performing at a high level, if your boss doesn’t trust you, you can only go so far.  Demonstrate hundred percent efficiency with a hundred percent loyalty and you’ll conquer the world.  I think even Samuel Goldwyn would agree with that.