10 Leaders Share Their Views On Leadership – Part VII: “Loyalty” by Dr. Phil Anderson
Dr. Phil Anderson served with distinction in the U.S. Marine Corps. He is one of only six USMC officers I am aware of who earned a Ph. D. while on active duty. After retiring as a Colonel from the USMC, Phil ran the Homeland Security practice for CSIS (The Center for Strategic and International Studies), a Washington-based think tank. Dr. Anderson was often called up to advise Gov. Tom Ridge as he formed the Department of Homeland Security. Phil was hired by Pat Russo, CEO of Lucent Technologies (see today’s press releases about the merger with Alcatel) to serve as Lucent’s Vice President for Washington Operations. I was delighted when, in the midst of a very hectic schedule, Phil agreed to participate in this series and share his perspective on loyalty.
By Dr. Philip Anderson
I would suggest, and will attempt to support my assertion, that among Kelly Perdew's 10 leadership principles, "Loyalty" is by far the most important and all encompassing on the list. Not to discount the importance of the other principles - or the views of the distinguished group of leaders who have been asked to write on the other nine - simply to suggest that "Loyalty" is fundamentally at the core of all things. It is a virtue not unlike "Integrity" or "Selflessness" - and applied appropriately, is the biggest differentiator for leaders everywhere.
Perdew addresses "Loyalty" in terms of "Up, down, and across organizations"...sorry, nothing new there. I have read that in one form or another in lots of business management text books....typically just academic mumbo jumbo with no practical basis.
From my perspective, to understand the principle of "Loyalty" and to apply it properly, one must begin with some context - analogous to, but not directly related to organizations. Most everyone who was raised in the Christian tradition, remembers the reference to faith, hope and love....with the greatest being love...from Corinthians. Many of us were married after hearing those words...it was one of the readings at my wedding 15 years ago. I remember standing there in my dress whites in the Camp Smith Chapel (Hawaii), wondering what I was getting myself into.
As a young Lieutenant, I thought that Marines fought for the flag...for God and Mom and apple pie...but as a Colonel, I had learned well that they fight only for each other...and for the team. There are hundreds of war stories that bear this out...most recently out of Iraq. I read another just this morning. "With his platoon commander down and losing life by the second on a violent street in Ramadi, Iraq, Sgt. Eric Smith did what just about any good Marine Platoon Sergeant would do - he ran through hell to get him." Having been a Platoon Commander, I remember looking up to my Platoon Sergeant as a father figure...and even though the Lieutenant was in charge, every Platoon Sergeant that was worth his salt was just that...a father. Loyalty.
Tying this all together, when I look back at my military career...I realize that the most successful operational leaders were those who took care of their troops....who shepherded them...who loved and protected them as a father would care for his children. There were always a few, however - but not many, who succeeded on their ability to suck up to their superiors...to put "loyalty up" at the top of the list. In my experience this always failed in an operational environment where success or failure was determined on the blood and sweat of the troops. In the business world, the trend is almost always loyalty up, across...and then down. What is reassuring to me, though, is that in business nothing speaks louder than success...all the sucking up and rah rah for the company don't add up to a hill of beans if you fail to make top and bottom line objectives.
So you want to win the battle, or at the least, fight the best fight, then love your troops as you would love your very own children. You want to be successful in business...make a lot of money, then be loyal to your subordinates first and foremost. My two cents...
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