For all the loyalty to Game of Thrones and you fans out there, this intro is for you! Don’t worry, no spoilers.
There were a lot of lessons to be learned in the hit HBO series — everyone has weird family dramas, don’t piss off a dragon’s loyalty and always say your goodbyes, cos you’ll probably die in the next episode.
But one of the biggest had to be about the importance of inspiring loyalty in people when you’re a leader. No one really had a chance in hell of getting anything done in Westeros if they couldn’t make their followers feel confident and part of the ‘good side’ with a badass speech or some positive sword-wielding.
Being a symbol of something bigger than you and representing certain values can rub off on your team and hopefully, they’ll have your back in return. Leadership is a balancing act and it’s a mutual relationship, gotta give in as much as you take out if you wanna get on the Iron Throne!
Easier said than done though right, so how can you build up loyalty when you’re in a leadership position?
Empower your team
I can’t stress enough how important it is to make your team feel appreciated and as if they’re actually good at their job.
You might have got to a leadership position because you don’t have trouble feeling confident in your abilities and moving forward. There are so many people that struggle with self-doubt and from the moment they step into work, till the moment they clock out are constantly thinking ‘I’m not good at my job and I’m gonna get found out, I’M A FRAUD’.
Chances are, it’s probably not true either.
As a leader, if you can take the time out to regularly check in with your team and praise them for good work, they’ll feel more appreciated and in turn, happier in their role.
Empower them with authority and support and they’ll feel more of a stake in the company too, but they’ll only confidently make decisions if they’re good at what they do — so help them feel it.
Never punish for honesty
If your team doesn’t trust you then they’re not gonna lay it all on the line for you and give 100%. Why trust a leader that might take the credit for a team effort or throw a colleague under the boss when a project goes kaput?
Simply put, they won’t.
58% of workers trust strangers more than their boss, which is crazy and shows there’s a disconnect that needs to be mended.
Encourage your team to be honest and accountable by showing the same qualities. Hold your hands up when something’s gone wrong and tackle tricky problems head-on. Let your team know where they stand when times get tough and they’ll respect you with the same honesty.
Leaders must listen
With some leaders, it’s all me, me, me. But if you know anything about connecting with others, a key cornerstone is being able to listen and make it you, you, you.
Everyone likes to feel valued and interesting. Validation comes from people crediting us for ideas, remembering our input or just bringing up something we said once.
Be a leader that actively listens and takes in what your team is saying, however big or small.
Have an open-door policy and encourage your team to come to you with questions, concerns and take them seriously when they do.
Loyalty requires good relationships.
Put love and connection on full display
Toxic work environments breed toxic relationships and vice versa, so trying to nip problems in the bud is a pre-requisite of good leadership.
You don’t have to skip through a field of sunflowers together, but having a strong, positive relationship with your team inspires loyalty.
Creating a work environment that’s encouraging and generally a nice place to make employees more invested in keeping it a great place to work.
Even if you’re up to your eyeballs with work, taking the time to ask how a team member’s weekend was or organizing a birthday cake builds connection and helps you lead with kindness.
Loyalty is earned
Rome wasn’t built in a day and your team isn’t suddenly going to trust you if you’ve previously been a sneaky, closed-off leader either.
Getting better results is about putting time and effort in. And there isn’t a magic switch, you won’t come into work one day, with a marching band and a big banner from all your team saying YOU DID IT, WE TRUST YOU.
You’ll notice if you’ve improved team loyalty in small interactions and micro-moments.
You might not ever really know, but if you lead with honesty, integrity and reach out, you’ve got a damn good chance.
Leading by example is the best thing you can do when you’re in a senior position. What qualities do you want to see in your team?
Think about that question and practice what you preach. Being an absolute monster but expecting a calm, constructive workplace…you must be kidding.
Reach out, listen and be accountable.
Being a good leader doesn’t mean you throw your common values out the window just to get results — your team will be far more responsive to someone who’s a decent human being.
But if all else fails, just get a dragon.