How Can Leaders Ignite Loyalty?

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As with every impending snowstorm, I marched myself to the local food store this week, to stock up on all the items which I will never go through. Those of us who live in cold climates, witnessed this crazy, irrational routine many times this winter. We grab our choices off the half-bare shelves and proceed to a long, highly frustrating checkout line. To pass my time waiting, I often engage those around me in conversation. Thursday was no different in my need to connect with others to calm my nerves. When I finally arrived at the unloading point, I pushed my basket through and proceeded to the cashier. And that is when some magic began to happen.

 The cashier was a young woman who looked fairly calm in a frazzled situation. She began to share with me her take on patience. She explained that her mother is the most patient person she knows and taught her how to gain perspective and not allow frustrations to turn her into an ogre with a short temper. I was impressed she shared this story which a few minutes later would become a critical lesson for me. As luck would have it, the cash register broke down after all my items were scanned and I was a bit agitated. I could feel my palms sweating and that voice inside about to emerge with anger and then I remembered the words I just heard from this young leader- Be patient.


The young woman then apologized to me and asked if I would move with her to another register that was working. I could have exploded but instead smiled, followed her to a new checkout and gave her my credit card. She thanked me profusely for being so patient and I was happy that I could put some perspective on this incident. As I was leaving the store, she grabbed me and handed me a bouquet of tulips and exclaimed: “I so appreciate your patience and kindness.” 

I responded to her: “Your mother was a great role model and you are a great leader here!” I decided that this food store would become my new “go-to” one and truly gained my loyalty that day- just from one delightful leader.

 Here are some ways to delight others while leading the way:

 Validate frustrating or challenging situations

We all face times either in the workplace, collaborating with others or in everyday interactions that cause us stress and seem out of our control. When we show empathy and concern, our leadership shines and we are then able to establish rapport with others. Words of comfort are welcomed and go a far way to cultivate loyalty.

 Share personal stories

When the young cashier told me all about her mother’s messages to her, I automatically calmed down and saw her humanity. She was doing her best to be a productive worker under highly charged circumstances. She had a profound lesson that helped her cope and in turn helped me.


Show appreciation in unique ways

I was so impressed that this young leader gave me flowers to say thank you. She could have just thanked me, but chose to delight me in a meaningful way. Leadership is about helping others as well as recognizing their contributions. Go all out and do something special that they wouldn’t expect:

  • Send out an over- the- top email describing what impact the person made on the team’s end result.
  • Buy little inexpensive gifts for all your team members or those in a collaborative group.
  • Write a recommendation and add it to someone’s linkedin profile.
  • Take an individual out to lunch and tell them how much you appreciate them and their contributions.

How do you show others significant appreciation? What grateful acts have you received for your contributions?

10 thoughts on “How Can Leaders Ignite Loyalty?

  1. My daughter’s homework assignment this week was to write about a situation where she felt empathy. Leaders truly are not only sympathetic but empathetic with other’s challenges. They know they’ve been there too.

    The flowers definitely sound like a memorable moment! I also have kudos for her supervisor that clearly empowers your checkout person and others to be leaders that make decisions that delight their customers.

    Great story, Terri!

  2. What a great assignment for your daughter and one that will surely show her how empathy impacts her everyday life!

    When we can understand what another person is going through or what they are feeling, we can lead from a much more knowledgeable and respectful place. I think one cannot relate to being empathetic until she or he experiences it for themselves.

    Thanks Alli!

  3. Terri, Your story and experience shows how patience is matched with humility. When leaders are humble, they are more willing to be patient and empathetic as well as relate to others more openly. A great story that shows the power of leading with humility and all that follows after… Thanks! Jon

  4. I agree Jon that humility can be quite meaningful when it is paired with being a patient leader. Learning how to be more empathetic is a great skill for leaders to learn and I honestly believe it can be taught.

    There is also an element of gratitude that can be shared as I experienced with this young cashier. Taking gratitude to the next level truly made me feel cared about.


  5. LOVE this Terri!

    Thank you so much for sharing, because it was truly impactful. Small gestures of kindness can go a long way in building rapport and trust with others.

    And now you are a loyal customer at that store…you should tell the store manager, and hopefully, the cashier will be the next one to receive a small gesture 🙂

  6. It was such an energizing experience, LaRae and one that made a huge impact on me.

    You bring up a great point that I should reach out to the store manager to share my story and positive experience. I definitely will do that!


  7. Terri – This was so much fun to read.

    The picture of the tulips had my attention immediately when I looked at your post because tulips evoke a beautiful memory for me too. Then I was pulled into your story knowing what it is like to prepare for snow storm and hurricanes in those busy and picked over stores. Most of all I was delighted with the story of the young leader and delighted that you were locked inside with such a beautiful gift!

    Thank you for sharing!

  8. Do you miss the crazy winters, Chery? No need because I am so, so tired of them at this point. Ha!

    I am glad that my story impacted you and allowed some memories to come to the surface. I guess that is what storytelling can do for all of us as they transport us to places that are familiar and relatable.

    I appreciate your supportive additions!

  9. Great post. Your story reminds me of something that happened to me this week. I had returned home to BWI rail station well after midnight. First the automated payment machines were not working. Next, I went to the normal entrance and there was a big blockade saying go to the other entrance (not an easy task) and an attended who just watch me turn around. When I go to the other entrance no one was there… so I had to make a phone call… and you guessed it… that same attendent had to drive from other entrance to help me… I was ready to explode… but then he shared how his new medication is making walking so painful…he was clearly in anguish and must really need this job. It was not as an excuse but as a fact. My only response after that was “I hope you feel better.” When we know what’s really going on it’s so easier to connect as humans.

  10. What a great story you shared, Karin as it shows that when we connect with people on a deeper level, we get to know what motivates them and why they act the way they do.

    Leadership involves getting to those more meaningful places with others and helping them get through the difficult times.

    I love your concerned end response. You are truly authentic!

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