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The Power of Loyalty, 3

Part 3 of Living a Loyal Life


I remember a certain favorite quote of Napoleon Bonaparte’s when I think of rewarding loyalty – “A soldier will fight long and hard for a bit of colored ribbon.”  Is the soldier really fighting for a piece of ribbon or is he fighting for something deeper – more meaningful?

I believe that life is not simply a search for pleasure, as Freud believed, or as a search for power, as Alfred Adler taught, but a search for meaning. Meaning drives us. We all want to be different, special, and unique.  In our quest, a simple piece of ribbon has the ability to recognize us for being tougher, braver, smarter, stronger… just simply better.  We win Airborne wings, Ranger Tabs, Green Berets, Spurs, and Tridents, among other things during our journey for meaning. We didn’t fight for these “bits of colored ribbon” for reward. We fought for these “ribbons” for the way these achievements made us feel about ourselves. We strive to define ourselves and find meaning in our lives.

In order to harness the power of loyalty, leaders must discover their subordinate’s interpretation of loyalty. These leaders must create a dialogue of what loyalty means to their subordinates. Overall, there are six top drivers for making employees satisfied: 1) a belief that a leader is committed to making an organization a great place to work, 2) trust in a leader’s direction, 3) a belief the company will succeed in the future, 4) a belief that a leader feels people are the greatest resource, 5) that the organization is a good place to advance a career and grow professionally, 6) that a leader will lead the company to success in the future.

Starting with one of these ideas as basis for building loyalty will allow a leader to quickly grow their teams. The leaders that earned my loyalty are the ones that could pinpoint what I defined and valued as my meaning in life.  Consistently rewarding the meaning in your subordinate’s life will result in undying loyalty. Loyal leaders always reward loyalty. 


Loyalty is built on trust and love. Leadership is a profession of love, you can’t truly lead if you don’t love the people that are following you. You can’t love the people following you if you don’t know them. The leaders that I was most loyal to took the time to get to know me, they understood my background and my motivations. They connected with me.

A research study in Jerusalem showed this same connection between love and loyalty in the medical profession. The study evaluated the quality of reports on 318 patients who underwent CT scans, an advanced type of X-ray. These patients agreed to be photographed prior to their CT scans and these images were added to their electronic files, appearing automatically when the file was opened.

In this study, 81 cases were presented twice to the medical doctors.  When the case was presented without the photograph, doctors missed incidental findings 80 percent of the time.  This means that when the photograph of the patient was included in the case, medical doctors found an 80% increase in incidental findings.  These so-called incidental findings on an image might suggest health implications beyond the scope of the original exam. When these medical doctors connected with a patient and knew that person by name, they were more meticulous and more aggressive at looking for suspicious findings. Vincent Van Gogh, not known as much for his inspirational quotes as much as his art, stated “Love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is well done.”

I would stress the importance of not aiming to achieve loyalty – the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. I believe that loyalty, like happiness, “cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side-effect of one’s dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself.” Happiness must happen, and the same is true with loyalty; you have to let loyalty happen by not caring about it.

Internalize our experiences, think of your own experiences, and live your life. In the long run, loyalty will follow you because you had forgotten to think about it.

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