Lead for Loyalty

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To succeed, every leader and organization must create value, which means delivering benefits in excess of their cost and better than competing alternatives. By mastering a single leadership development system of core value drivers and integrating them around personal credibility, top leaders build sustained, superior value for their employees, organizations and customers.

At the core, all enduring relationships are founded on the same principles of belief, common cause, and shared reward. Business relationships, in which loyalty and leadership intertwine, are mutually dependent on the same root system: personal credibility springing from creative evolution, collaborative energy, controlled efficiency, and competitive effectiveness.

Loyalty is both a rational and an emotional response to authentic leadership. It won’t do to approach the promise of Enterprise Loyalty as a set of delegated tasks and processes somewhere in the marketing promotions department.

Enterprise Loyalty is a concept of the business as a fully integrated system and a call for a transformation to integrated leadership. Committed engagement is a tremendous competitive advantage. In today’s service economy, it may be the source of all competitive advantage.

Before they commit, all followers want to know about the credibility of their would-be leaders on a rational and emotional basis. So they always implicitly ask:

• Who are you, really — do you know?
How strong is your core?
Effective leaders know themselves well, their core identity and personality, preferences and tendencies, and strengths and areas needing development.
• Where would you lead us?
What is your cause?
Effective leaders formulate and communicate a cause for their lives, based on purpose and vision. They know why they are here, how their occupations fit into their vision, and how to create their own futures.
• Why should we care?
Do you care about us?
Effective leaders genuinely care about others and invite them into their cause, seeing leadership as an opportunity to collaborate to serve the broader common good.
• Can we trust you at your word?
Do you have character?
Effective leaders exhibit character in the form of honesty, transparency, and self-control, doing the right thing no matter who’s looking.
• Do you know what you’re doing?
Are you competent?
Effective leaders build competence constantly by embracing their knowledge and skill gaps and committing to close them with life-long learning.

People commit to leaders who answer these questions confidently and with certainty. If they answer otherwise, compliance replaces commitment on the path to mediocrity.

There can be no organizational excellence without personal excellence first. You cannot give what you do not possess, and you cannot lead others to a place you have not led yourself first. Credibility is always personal, and only then organizational.

The exceptional enterprise orchestrates Enterprise Loyalty across all three levels — personal, organizational, and outward to customers — as an integrated whole. Both employees and customers “catch” the energy of such a place, and commit their energies to it. In a service economy, where employees and customers work together to create the customer’s experience, employee engagement is a direct value driver of customer loyalty, and customer loyalty is a direct value driver of economic value:

• From the core, credibility and commitment create a sense of customer reliance on the loyalty enterprise. Trust is the foundation of all;
• Its evolving and compelling cause is the platform for strong brands and vivid loyalty programs to create and maintain relevance for a target community of customers;
• The enterprise of caring loyalty has a natural orientation to collaboration and energized engagement, so it finds it easy to include and recognize customers with soft benefits and status;
• Order and controlled efficiency are brought to customers through a clear program design, with reciprocal earnings opportunities and requirements;
• Competent, competitive effectiveness results in compelling, “hard-dollar” rewards for both the most loyal customers and the enterprise.

All leaders should be asked to adapt and grow their personal strengths and preferences, and to learn how to respect and utilize the diversity of thinking across the enterprise. Such a program should have the accountability to measurably lift employee and customer engagement as a specific value-enhancing outcome from the leadership process of Enterprise Loyalty.

The winners in the next couple of decades will be those companies whose courageous and visionary leaders lead them to tap the huge and largely untapped value of their employees’ engagement and customers’ loyalty. This is both a rational and emotional challenge. Therefore, in designing leadership-development programs, focus on strengthening the core of all leaders to build employee engagement and customer loyalty. But remember the critical first step in that design: a long look in the mirror.

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