Thursday, May 16, 2013

Loyalty and Trust

From time to time, a profound thought strikes here at Musings. Today, it's a question:
Is it necessary for there to be trust in order that there be loyalty?
Can there be loyalty and simultaneously mistrust?

Spoiler alert: there's no right answer. It's a matter of your values and beliefs, for which there is no proof, validation, or algorithm.

So, where did this come from?
  1. In my agile classes, we discuss the desirable/essential elements of leadership in the agile environment. The word trust comes up in almost every student reply; I don't recall 'loyalty' ever coming up (though I did search the archives), either as a quality looked for in a leader or expected to be given to a leader
  2. I'm reading a new Winston Churchill biography. The biographers -- William Manchester and Paul Reid -- describe Churchill's relationship with Josef Stalin -- from 1942 onward when the USSR allied with the U.S. and Britain in WW II -- as mistrustful but loyal. I was really struck by that assessment.
So, back to the questions posed above; I think this:
  •  I can be loyal to an institution (team, project, business unit, agency) without being trustful of its tactical leadership. However, if the mistrusted leadership is then strategic and becomes the strategy of the institution, then you lose me.
  • At a personal level, I can't be distrusting and loyal to a person at the same time. At a personal level, trust and loyal have to go together.
  • I think, without knowing, that WSC was loyal to the cause represented by the alliance with the USSR without being trusting of its leadership. I get it; it can work.

And, Mike Clayton has an excellent piece on 10 qualities of leadership -- but loyalty (given or expected) is not among them. So, another point of reference for those looking.

(Disclosure: I resigned an executive position in a large company when I could no longer trust a more senior executive and felt I could not be loyal to him, so that experience probably colors my thinking)

And, ONE MORE THING: you don't get the word 'respect' on leadership attribute lists. I wonder if trust-respect and loyalty somehow go together... could you possibly trust someone that you don't respect? Perhaps, one begets the other.

    Check out these books I've written in the library at Square Peg Consulting