If you want to see the true measure of a man, watch how he treats his employees, not his equals”  (J K Rowling)

The leaders of Korn Ferry, in their “Future of Work” study, suggest that two-thirds of senior leaders think technology will generate greater value for their business than human capital. They note from the study, however, that the financial reality shows that the value of people outstrips that of technology by a considerable amount. They suggest: “To unlock their workforce’s true value, organisations need leaders who are purpose-driven and able to realise people’s potential. They need to enable leaders at all levels to develop soft skills and the ability to lead and deliver strategic change – critical factors of success for companies in the future of work”.

The Korn Ferry study points to contexts where leadership has already done the “hard yards” of empowering their people – engendering subsequent trust, loyalty and motivation. These loyal employees, in turn, carry the brand as if an Olympic Torch, focus with diligence on the tasks at hand and innovatively find better and more efficient ways of delivering to clients. The staff are not “told what to do”, but an environment is created where they have the freedom to deliver on expectations and exceed them. Simon Sinek noted: “When we tell people to do their jobs, we get workers. When we trust people to get the job done, we get leaders”. Employees, who are leaders in their own respective rights, take responsibility and ownership for the work outputs – there is no need to cajole them to achieve compliance standards or agreed targets and reduce waste, as they do it of their own accord. Loyal employees will even go as far as drawing management’s attention to potential risks that face the business and opportunities yet unrealised. They can be trusted and, as such, have worth that far exceeds their respective salaries.

One of the key tasks of leadership, therefore, seems to be to engender loyalty and trust. It simply doesn’t make sense to hire chess players and then treat them like chess pieces. Nothing kills creativity and enthusiasm better than a prescription of what to do and how to do it. The job of a modern leader is to share information, make sure that people have what they need to do their jobs, remove obstacles and provide clarity on what is needed, NOT on how to do it. Lee Iacocca, formerly executive at Ford Motor Corporation and later at the Chrysler Corporation, stated: “I hire smart people and get out of their way”. Oleg Vishnepolsky, Global CTO at DailyMail Online, emphasised that you earn loyalty by doing something good for your people:

  • By taking real risks for your people
  • By standing up for them
  • By getting them what they need
  • By being there for them when they need you
  • By helping them to realise their dreams

Notice that the focus on the above five suggestions is solely on the employee – acts of reaching out and demonstrating leadership. Loyalty never germinates in a selfish environment – suspicion does. Trustworthy and loyal employees grow when you look for the best in them – they will, in fact, flourish. Richard Branson, of Virgin, noted: “If you criticise or look for the worst, they’ll shrivel up. We all need lots of watering”.

Loyal employees are worth more than their weight in gold. They uphold your brand and ensure the sustainability of your business. They offer discretionary effort and go the extra mile. They make it possible for you to win. Peter Drucker noted: “Never push loyal people to the point where they don’t give a damn”. Rather enable and empower them.

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