Loyalty over competence is bad management

By John D. Pierce

Being surrounded by head-nodders who are afraid to offer constructive criticism, opposing viewpoints, and accountability may feel good.

But it doesn’t make one a better person or leader.

That approach, reflected so clearly in the current national administration, is self-serving rather than serving the interests of all.

This is the go-to approach for leaders who lack confidence in competence and therefore prefer intimidation as a means to retain control. The result is costly.

Decades ago, when Southern Baptist fundamentalists took over the convention’s institutions and agencies, we saw this control-over-competence play out well.

In a meeting with other editors then covering denominational affairs, one veteran editor asked SBC Executive Committee president Morris Chapman what he was looking for in filling the vacant slot for heading the convention’s press office.

His response lodged in my mind: “I’m looking for someone loyal to me and the conservative cause.”

There was not a word about competence or experience. And the results proved to be fully aligned with those stated priorities.

Sure, we all want to work with those who share our values and mission. But personal loyalty that fears alternative perspectives, removes accountability and devalues competence is damaging to the common good.

And we are experiencing such damage now.

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