Top of Mind: Leadership Versus Loyalty

January 9, 2014 06:16 PM
JeanneBernick Spring

Leadership is a daily activity in every walk of life. In farming, you simply have more opportunities for deliberate leadership, particularly if you are bringing on the next generation.

However, you are a leader only if you have followers. Aubrey Daniels, author of international best seller "Measure of a Leader," says focus should really be on the relationship between the leader and the followers. The behavior of the team following the leader, not the leader’s behavior, defines leadership in any organization.

Loyalty is key to follower behavior. It refers to that tenacious adherence to the practices advanced by the leader in pursuit of the goals of the organization. For example, the Mayo brothers, who founded the Mayo Clinic with their father, died in 1939, yet their principles still influence decisions in the clinic today. In meetings where difficult decisions are to be made, the question is often asked: "What would Will and Charlie do?"Mayo Clinic staff often remind each other that Will and Charlie’s guiding philosophy was "The best interest of the patient is the only interest to be considered."

It’s easy to think of loyalty in terms of being loyal to a person. But even in a family setting, notes Daniels, loyalty is less about the family members than it is about what they stand for. "In any undertaking that requires leadership, loyalty to the individual might be how the venture starts, but it is not how the venture thrives," he says. "If the leader cannot transfer personal loyalty to loyalty to his vision, he has failed a critical test of effective leadership."

Take Ego Out. The tragedy of so many farm businesses is that the farm founder or current owner cannot conceive the notion that their personal interests and those of their employees (or sons and daughters) might be different. This causes them to blind themselves to flaws and faults, both personal and organizational.

I’ve seen it so many times on farms: dad punishes the difference of opinions of the next generation, then later asks for input but hears his own opinions repeated back to him. Dad expects others to be loyal, then feels betrayed when employees or children take care of their personal interests first.

Loyalty to others, for many entrepreneurs, is predicated on obedience. When that obedience ends, so does the leader’s concept of loyalty.

Ultimately, loyalty is not about the leader—or in the case of farming, about dad who started the farm. It’s about the leader’s vision and values. Where loyalty is about a person, the survivability of the business will always be suspect. 
Jeanne Bernick

Editor of Top Producer

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