Who’s the best boss you ever had? Think about it for a moment. What made this leader such a standout, and what did they do to earn your trust and appreciation?
You respected them, but not because they were an authority figure. Not because they held an official title. They deserved your respect and loyalty. And in business, loyalty matters. Feelings matter. Remarkable results are almost always built on the foundation of cooperative relationships.
Data and the intellect will only take you so far, after all. To achieve the extraordinary, everyone has to go all in and internalize the mission. Whatever your industry, whatever your business model, you’ll never win without first winning the hearts of your people.
Too often, we gloss over this and proceed straight to goals, directives and expectations. But without the emotional connection between leaders and their teams, your plans will falter and you’ll never reap the results you’re hoping for.
So how do you spark that next-level effort and unleash the true potential of your people?
The simple answer is that you must earn it, but as we all know, what’s simple isn’t necessarily easy.
Ways to Earn Exceptional Loyalty and Drive
- Nurture their careers — Help them with introductions and networking opportunities, offer training, give feedback, and allow them to learn marketable new skills. Ask them about their goals, listen, and take notes.
- Show epic generosity — Be alert for opportunities to share the limelight and offer help in other ways when they need it. Surprise them with kindness and empathy.
- Acknowledge them as human beings — No one appreciates being reduced to a source of deliverables. Show interest in their lives outside work. Ask about their kids. Show compassion if they’re having a rough time.
- Follow through on your promises — You can’t have trust without reliability. Try your best to deliver, and if you can’t, ‘fess up: “I’m sorry that I can’t make it happen now. But I haven’t forgotten, and I want you to know that I’ll keep trying.”
- Be willing to take one for the team — Don’t allow things to simply roll downhill. Be an advocate for your team, and they will notice.
Feeling Torn Between Your Employees and Your Boss?
Now here’s the tricky part. If you’re a middle manager, you’re in a uniquely challenging position — and you know this already. Not only must you manage down, but also up, balancing your boss’s directives with the needs and challenges of your team members.
The biggest mistake you can make, in my experience, is allowing yourself to become paralyzed into inaction. If this happens, you’ll lose respect on both sides and find yourself dead in the water—functionally ineffective.
To prevent this, prioritize transparency. Make sure your people understand the perspective of upper-level management and their case for change. At the same time, articulate the obstacles your team faces in fulfilling expectations. Clear, effective communication in both directions will determine your success or failure.
But I want to go even further. Yes, managing up and down is a balancing act, and you’ll often feel pulled in opposite directions. But if your goal is extreme loyalty, the kind that goes above and beyond, your people must believe you are in their corner. They need to know you’ll stick up for them, even under pressure. This is non-negotiable. Never sacrifice them to gain favor from your superiors.
The Price of Loyalty
Imagine yourself in a department store. You spot an item you’ve had your eye on for a while: diehard dedication from your people. You pull it off the shelf and glance at the dangling price tag.
- Over-the-top generosity
- Heartfelt commitment
- Legendary courage
- Self-Sacrifice when necessary
Are you prepared to pay the price, or is it too high? Nothing comes for free, and this item will never find its way to a clearance rack.
If you are ready to pay, start with relationship. And start today. Inspire people. Win their hearts. Be the kind of leader who earns and deserves their loyalty, and then watch them accomplish the impossible for you.