When Is Loyalty Hurtful?

By Scott Gilpin


Recently, I heard a leader describe “loyalty” to his institution. As he talked about love, commitment, duty, I wondered if his loyalty was still a virtue? Many who heard him are aware of a growing list of symptoms that put into question his organization’s relationship with its stakeholders. Was his loyalty, once valued and rewarded with promotions and recognition, now hurting his cause? Was he, in an effort to protect outdated beliefs or programs, crippling his institution’s ability to adapt?

As I explored this question with a colleague, she challenged my own role in shaping my institution’s culture. I found myself wondering if I am loyal to my organization’s mission or am I loyal to its culture?

I had to examine my thinking and my work. Is my loyalty hindering my organization’s ability to adapt to a rapidly changing world?

A corporate merger consultant told me, “The absence of loyalty is not necessarily disloyalty. A culture of aloyalty is better than allegiance to outdated values, beliefs, and behaviors. Being loyal to a culture that is suicidal is a dishonorable act. Defending the past cannot protect you from the future.”

If I am loyal to my organization's mission, then I must play my position well to help my organization remain mission critical. My loyalty to mission means that I will be faithful to the opportunities instead of believing in the problems.

As a development professional, my questioning led me to create a list of credible fundraising verities.
  • Donors don’t want to give to yesterday’s answers.
  • Raising money is always for change.
  • Whether one is solicitor or donor, you are both brought together by God to create something new (read Henri Nouwen’s A Spirituality of Fundraising).
  • An organization is strongest when its mission is credible and unique.
  • Partnerships eschew redundancy and grow impact.
  • Evaluating and sharing evidence of effectiveness comes from an attitude of gratitude.
  • Entitlement leads to an unwillingness to be held accountable for results. Such toxic charities do not plan strategically, nor do they evaluate the “mission critical” aspect of their programs. They do not share results or appropriately express appreciation for funding.

I will appreciate the past, but show proper respect for the future. I shall rethink leadership and role models and, then, celebrate achievements that make us more impactful and competitive. I am all in as to my institution's "connection" and its global commitment.