Receiving loyalty isn’t hard but losing it is!

I remember that special meeting I was invited to, many years ago. Only for certain chosen leaders, this event wasn’t for everyone, an old boys club of sorts. I was excited because of my recent promotion a few months prior and felt proud to be inducted so early in my career.

A bit uneasy, or maybe even nervous, I pumped myself with the possibilities and opportunities this gathering of the greats might offer. More than 300 people were in attendance when I entered the ballroom during cocktail time. Only a very few were known to me while the many others remained pure legends. I felt out of my depth like a fish out of the water.

This is when I heard this loud and distinctive voice from the other side of the room: “This must be David Wanner!” he shouted while making his way through the sea of people now looking at me. He extended his warm hand and welcoming smile as if we were old friends.

I look around confused at first, thinking it might be for someone else, but this warm welcome was mine, all mine. There he stood, the CEO and President of this great organisation knowing my name, and introducing me to everyone. I remember having a fantastic conversation with him, a very human conversation where he asked all about me and my family. There was no mention of my responsibilities, performances, or accolades, just two earthlings learning about each other on a basic level. We exchanged phone numbers while urging me to call him anytime.

This encounter touched me deeply and left a permanent reminder that leadership is about knowing, loving, and inspiring your people. This great leader didn’t have to do any of this. He didn’t have to go out of his way to learn my name, converse with me in a manner to learn and understand, provide warmth, friendship… but he did.

And the result? Decades of unwavering loyalty. I would have died on any proverbial hill fighting by his side. When he left the company, I too left shortly after.

It doesn’t take much to receive loyalty from your people. But it does require seeing them from the outside in – not from your perspective, but theirs. It is not business, it’s personal.

Spending only a couple of hours, this great leader received dividends by the millions (literally). And not only did it serve him well, but his attitude and actions help everyone, from customers to investors.

This included me: I became better because I wanted to prove myself bad to him. I wished him to feel proud and that gave me the extra edge to accomplish greatness.

So next time you hear “loyalty is dead in business” wonder who keeps killing it. Be human: know, love, and inspire your people and retain/attract talent while boosting productivity.


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