Team Dynamics – Loyalty Is the New Cocaine

team dynamics loyaltyFrom the narcissist’s guide to selecting team members…

As we see from our current political leadership, loyalty is the number one criterion to ascertain whether someone is worthy of being on our team. Why wouldn’t it be?? If you don’t have loyalty from your team, you are not a leader—period.

I recommend getting loyalty pledges from all of the people that work for you. Some will balk, so it’s quite simple to let them know their job is on the line if they refuse to participate. Now, unlike a non-compete or non-disclosure agreement, you don’t have to pay anything for this. Essentially, their paycheck is all you have to commit to! Think of the beauty in that! I seriously don’t understand why more companies don’t take advantage of this rarely used, incredibly successful tactic.

Let’s think about it in practical terms. You expect loyalty—but yet, you can’t be sure that your people are. And what makes an incredibly strong team? Loyalty. Bingo! Use the loyalty pledge. You can consider getting it verbally, which may be sufficient in some cases, but in most cases, I would recommend getting it in writing. The problem with verbal is that the bastards will turncoat on you, and then you have to call them liars and hope that your word is stronger than theirs. If you’re in the position of power and authority, your word over their word is usually enough. However, having a loyalty pledge in writing is always the ace in the hole when they start dishing on you to the failing New York Times.

Getting this agreement in writing is nothing short of brilliance in leadership terms. It feels great—like a shot of the best drug in the world straight into the arm—at least in the moment. It feels even better when you get the chance to enforce it as soon as one of the little rats jumps ship and reveals less than flattering details about you. But getting it in writing can be tricky. First, your HR department will tell you that although it’s not strictly illegal, it’s highly unethical. Well, we all know that ethics are a matter of interpretation, so forget about those.  They are what you say they are. And if you say them louder and longer than someone else, you win. Believe me, it works.

Once you are past the pain-in-the-ass HR and legal types, you simply craft a letter that says this is my loyalty pledge to you, and whatever you do or say, I will support and abide by and never, ever reveal any doubts, questions, or otherwise countervailing points-of-view. The conversation with your team can be tricky so I recommend the approach of meeting with all of them as a team and laying it out for them. Explain that as a leader, it’s fundamental to the success of the team that your authority, prowess, and decision-making ability never be questioned. When they look at you with that stupid, questioning, or quizzical look, you face them off and say, “Do you have a problem with this pledge?” And then, “Are you the first who will show me disrespect and disloyalty?” I always like throwing in the disrespect aspect of it because if they’re stupid enough to have a conscience, this term will cut to the bone. Of course, they will back down, and it’ll just be a great lesson to the rest of the team. The leader is all-powerful and that they are not—which is exactly how you want it. If you get some smart ass who is all indignant because you are requiring this pledge, fire him or her on the spot and remind them that you will sue their ass off if they violate the confidentiality agreement. Boom! You just showed everyone who’s in charge.

Usually, you’ll get full compliance at that point. But you may detect a few outliers that have gotten together to question your competence. It’s vitally important to cut these weeds down as quick as you see them. Invite them into your office for a friendly chat and remind them that they are special to you. Butter them up with whatever you know will make them feel good, and then ask why they haven’t signed their agreement. Tell them that they are the chosen one, the heir apparent—they’ll never talk to their peers to find out you said the same thing to the rest of them. You know they’re stupid; otherwise, they would be in your job, right? So, don’t start to give them credit now for being smarter than they are.

Once you are relatively sure you have everyone on board with pledging loyalty and fealty to you and only you, now for the coup de gras. Get everyone together and have them say nice things about you, particularly about your stellar leadership skills so the rest of the group can hear. Something like, “I am so grateful that Don selected me to be on his team. I can’t wait to learn more from him about leadership and am happy to pledge my loyalty.” A few specifics are great but more importantly, you want the pledges.

Once you have these from your team and rid yourself of the traitors, you’re the golden boy. Of course, this type of loyalty can always backfire if you’re not careful about constantly weeding out the miscreants and the two-timers. Sometimes just firing someone because you’re suspicious—without any proof— will do the trick. Stay on it and you’ll have a team of sycophants second to none!


Loyalty is good to have but true loyalty is earned. Having loyalty pledges in writing or verbally is counterproductive to what you are trying to achieve. If loyalty is required, it’s not loyalty—it’s servitude and that will only go so far. Forced loyalty will almost always backfire on you because people don’t like to be forced into anything.

If you have earned the loyalty of your team—which is helpful for effective leadership—they will know it’s optional. You need to show them every day why they have made a good choice to support you as leader. Not because their job depends on it, but because they believe in your leadership. Forced loyalty is fake loyalty. It will never last and is almost worse than having none at all because now you’ve created moles and enemies.

Be an authentic leader, own your mistakes and successes, recognize the contributions of others, and help them grow into leaders. These principles will gain you the highest level of loyalty: Respect.

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