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The Three Ingredients of Loyalty [Day 14 – 28 Days to BFL]


This is Day 14 of 28 Days of Building Fierce Loyalty. Yesterday, Helen Kim, in her ever-so-smart way,gave us her Riff on Fierce Loyalty (if you missed it – go read it. NOW.) Because today is Valentine’s Day, I can’t imagine a better person to be posting than Mark Silver who puts the Heart at the center of Building Fierce Loyalty.

The Three Ingredients for Loyalty

By: Mark Silver| @MarkHeartofBiz

The recipe for loyalty is relatively simple, but the ingredients are not the most common ones found in business.

Ready? Here they are:

First Ingredient: Love.

You have to love the people you want loyalty from. Love comprises a number of other qualities, including caring, respect, admiration, equality, and generosity, among others.

But the heart of it is love. The human heart responds to love with more love. If you give love, love comes back to you.

Second Ingredient: Loyalty

Seems a little circular, but if you’re asking for loyalty, you need to show loyalty. But here’s the trick, you don’t need to show loyalty to the folks you want loyalty from. You’re already giving them love, which has many of the qualities that loyalty has, so you’ve got that covered.

Your loyalty has to be to something larger. And here’s why.

Loyalty is Like Faith

The human heart is made to serve, not to be worshipped. When people are given too much loyalty, it corrupts the heart. Hear me out, just for a second.

I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t stick with people through tough times, or that you should abandon anyone. But love is enough glue to hold you together. The human heart is healed by love.

Loyalty, however, can be intoxicating. Loyalty, as separate from love, can corrupt the best people. Because human beings are constantly growing and changing, and because we’re imperfect and constantly making mistakes, loyalty, or faith, has two choices.

The first choice is to fade away in the face of imperfections, changes and mistakes. The second choice is to become blind. “My country, right or wrong.” It’s the loyalty that creates dictators and tyrants. It is disconnected from reality.

So putting your loyalty, faith, commitment into something larger than you, a larger purpose, intention, or reality allows others to be loyal through you to that larger thing.

It also allows your community to own their loyalty. Rather than just trying to follow you, they are following something larger.

Third Ingredient: Semi-Permeability

Loyalty and love can all be reinforced by community, and community means belonging. But after years of working with communities of all sorts, I’ve found that one of the most under-appreciated ingredients of a community is the wall around it.

A community is not everybody. A community is a specific group of people. It can be incredibly small, or mind-bogglingly large, but what needs to be clear is that people know when they are a member of your community and when they aren’t.

This involves passing through the wall. And here’s where it gets a little tricky.

You want the membrane around the community (Whoa, switching metaphors. Now we’re into cellular biology.) to be semi-permeable. Meaning you want it to be strong enough to keep people in and keep others out, but you want it to be open enough that people can enter and leave.

The easier it is to join a community, the weaker the sense of belonging, and the less loyalty and commitment is formed. The harder it is to join a community, the stronger the sense of belonging and the more loyalty and commitment is created.

Some communities are impossible to enter, and the sense of belonging is incredibly powerful, such as those formed around ethnic identity or sexual orientation. You can’t change those, and so you know you belong. Religious identity can be changed, but even if it’s relatively easy to officially convert, it often requires big changes in your life, so there’s the gate.

So here are the questions you need to answer:

1. Do you really, truly love the people in your community? How can you nourish that love in your own heart, and express it to them in a way they’ll receive it?

2. What are you loyal to that you also want your community loyal to? How can you express your loyalty?

3. What is the membrane around your community? How does someone know whether they are in or out? What do they have to do to enter or exit your community?

Because that’s a lot to answer, I’m going to invite you to pick one of those questions, and answer it in the comments. And particularly I want you to focus on questions 2 and 3, because they are more quantifiable and easier to talk about.

Go to it. Pick one of the questions, and let’s hear it.

Mark Silver
Mark Silver and his team have worked with thousands of small business owners, teaching them that every act of business can be an act of love, and still be effective. But, you may wonder why it’s hard for him to be cheerful sometimes.


P.S. If you aren’t already signed up and don’t want to miss out on  28 Days to Building Fierce Loyalty, please sign up here.

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  • I love how you mention that the human heart was meant to serve, not be worshipped. I’ve spent quite a bit of time looking at the topic of servant leadership and it is so true. If you’re too busy caring about your community to worry about what they think of you, they will sense that and give you loyalty in return. It’s crazy how impactful it is just to show a little love. Thanks for the post and Happy Valentines Day! 🙂

    • Anonymous

      You are so welcome, Sherrie. 🙂 And yes, no need to worry if you’re serving.

    • This makes a lot of sense, Sherrie, love is very powerful!

  • Great to see you here, Mark! The piece about the semi-permeable membrane has got my brain whorling!! Thanks for teasing this piece out, identifying it as an important ingredient for building fierce loyalty. It’s got me thinking about the quality of having that gate for determining what’s or who’s inside the walls (stone, cellulose, protein or otherwise) be somehow exclusive (as in special) without being negatively exclusionary. People will lovingly see whether they naturally qualify or want to make some shift to qualify and won’t feel left out if they don’t. I. Love. This.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks, Lydia! I’m glad you like the membrane. One caution- some people *will* feel left out. Not necessarily because of anything you do, but simply because we are all tender in different ways, and sometimes buttons get pushed. By keeping compassion in our heart we can respond with love, without loosening the membrane.

      •  yes indeed. I guess what I meant to say was that this is an ideal to shoot for knowing full well that we’re human and entirely vulnerable, i.e., beautifully imperfect and prone… more of an embrace and a knowing than a caution for me, and duly noted. thanks for clarifying this important point!

  • Blancolin

    #2: I’m loyal to the belief that arts and culture expand the worldview of people of all ages, socio-economic and educational backgrounds. I express that loyalty by bringing arts out to the community in multiple ways.

    • Anonymous

      I love that. Blancolin. And I’m curious about the next step: what does expanding the worldview do for people? How does that have an effect that people could be passionate and loyal to for themselves? I’m guessing you already have that, but by articulating it more clearly, people can grab on more fiercely. 🙂

  • Hi Mark — I’ve been asked a few times why I don’t make my paid community free or less expensive, and you beautifully summed up why. I’m intentionally creating a barrier. I only want the people who are really serious about building their freelance writing careers in my community. Those are the people I love to work with, who’ll really go out and do it and get results and start earning more, which I find so exciting and gratifying. 

    It also means people use the community to get the value from their monthly fee, and the forum interactions are amazingly productive — no gadflies or wannabes are taking up people’s time. 

    My membrane is definitely semi-permeable — anyone willing to pay can come in (up to my head-count limit), and those who’re ready to move on go out.

    I’ll be thinking about how I can give members more love. I do keep adding services and learning materials that are all included in their fee, so the value keeps growing. And I retweet their stories. One thing I’ve been doing is giving out cookies to people who I see doing random acts of kindness for others in the community. Real cookies I send them in the mail. I highly recommend! It’s fun (and relationship-building) to break the realm of the virtual and send something physical to people that delights them.

    • Anonymous

      That’s a beautiful commitment. I love the cookies! I may have to still that or something similar… 🙂

    • Really good points, Carol. You sound like you’ve intentionally created that barrier to help people decide whether they want to be in or not. It may help make the decision-making process easier that way.

  • I wonder if you could say more about the “membrane” around your community. I’m pretty good at creating community but have never thought about lassoing them up in anyway. Hrm… thoughts??

    • Anonymous

      Hi Claudia- Membrane means that there is something that qualifies someone for membership, so to speak. So, for instance, we’re (re)launching the Heart of Business community, but it’s very specifically an alumni community. It’s not a first step, and no one can just waltz in- you have to be an alumni.

      What kind of qualifications do you see in your communities?

      • Anonymous

        To build a really really tight community, having a pre-requisite of some kind is so important. PLUS, from a business standpoint, it is a qualifier that helps us focus our love and attention on the right people. You are so smart. 🙂

      • I don’t tend to qualify my communities – so maybe that’s a place to start. I’ll have to think about it a bit. Thanks! 🙂

  • Anonymous

    You and I have had this conversation – especially around the semi-permeable membrane – several times. I love how you have articulated here and folded it into Love. 🙂

    • Anonymous

      We did, didn’t we? 🙂

  • Carolyn

    Beautiful article!  I am particularly interested in your comments on the membrane around the community…. I was in a leadership role within a spiritual community/nonprofit, and I/we were very focused on inclusivity… and I can see now how much that weakened our experience in many ways…. and the personal issues for myself and others in leadership that we were not aware of.

    • Anonymous

      I know, Carolyn! We so want to be generous, open, and nonjudgemental, that we lose sight of how to really care for the people in front of us. Insightful of you to spot that. Sorry it happened, and I trust it will serve you moving forward.

  • KarenW

    Hi Mark,

    I love your membrane metaphor.  It articulates so succinctly the importance of standing for something and gathering a community around that.  Which means that some people will want in, others won’t, some will come for a while and leave, others will stay forever.  As with any physical community (town, city, etc) there is a point at which a community begins and ends and these boundaries are useful in a whole variety of ways.

    I also really appreciate the notion that loyalty is not positive in the absolute sense.  There is healthy loyalty and destructive loyalty (and many versions in between no doubt) and it’s helpful to get clear on the what kind we’re developing and why.  It makes me think of “growth”.  In the abstract, it’s easy to think that all growth is a positive thing.  In reality, growth can take a very dark and destructive direction.  There is good growth and bad growth (and lots of shades in between), likewise with loyalty it seems.

    I always appreciate your insight Mark.  Thanks for participating here and sharing your wisdom with us.


    • Anonymous

      Hi Karen- feels great to read that. And I so agree with your comments about growth. Growth is not always good, think of cancer, for instance.. Sigh… the middle way, the middle way.

  • Pamela Morse

    I am loyal to a healthy and efficient use of water on the planet. My work involves exercise in water, but I am concerned with the waste, pollution, and lack of distribution of water on a worldwide scale. I attempt to post information about events, interesting work of other water professionals

    • Anonymous

      Pamela! I can be loyal to that. And, like the comment I made to Blancolin, you might spell out the effect of healthy and efficient use of water. “Healthy and efficient” doesn’t have a lot of emotional content to it- but you could find the emotional content- who and what you’re loyal to, that could make it life-changing for folks.

  • Sooooo thought provoking today. You really have my juices flowing in creating some very special programs for my communities.
    In my business, I have 4 communities and the “qualifications” or membranes for 3 of them are clear for me, but the 4th, I’ll need to do some serious thinking around developing qualifications for that one.
    For me, this is like an extension of the idea of clearly defining your ideal client, but with a sharper point.

    • Anonymous

      Shannon- glad it was so helpful! And yes, very similar. 🙂

  • I remember my 6th grade teacher teaching us about semi-permeable membranes. What a blast form the past, Mark.

    But you’re right, of course. We’ve been taught to make it easy for people to do business with us, and I think the ease of access on the Internet has caused the pendulum to swing too far – making it far too easy for the wrong people to be in your community without some kind of barrier, or “membrane” as you called it. Good fences make good neighbors, and all that.

    As you and I have previously discussed, this year my focus is to drill down even more deeply into what being a lovepreneur is all about. I want to help my community feel confident in feeling and expressing that love – however it manifests for them. This post just gets me even more exited about it!

    Thanks, Mark!

    • Anonymous

      Glad I’m not the only one to remember that, Lisa. Woo-hoo! Go for it!

  • I’ve read somewhere recently, it was a research paper, and they’ve found that people are more likely to follow a leader if the leader strives for a greater goal. If even a little selfishness is sensed in the leader, his followers will start to diminish in numbers.

    I see how you’ve touched that in one of your points which I think is enormously important.

    Great post overall.

    • Anonymous

      I am sure that is true, Designely. I know it’s true for me. Although, I think there is room for a leader to be genuinely needy- have needs- and speak them openly with the community to have them met, as long as it’s done with humility and the leader continues to be in service.

  • Hey Mark,

    My fav line of today’s post:  Loyalty, as separate from love, can corrupt the best people. A great line for all areas of life. Where are we being overly loyal and how does that hurt our adventure on Earth.  Sometimes, the community we hang with may not be what we think it is. Thanks, G.

    • Anonymous

      Nice, Giulietta. Thank you for expanding that. So true!

  • Anonymous

    Thank you so much for your post today Mark!

    You had me at *love*!  I consider love one of my core values & as you put it, the more love you give out, the more that is returned to you.  I was nodding my head in agreement right away.

    And I love the concept of the semi-permeable membrane.  I’ve been working on the concept of niche for the last year, knowing that who I serve cannot be everyone.  The moment I attempt to help everyone, I spread myself too thin & help no one, least of all myself.  The semi-permeable membrane feels better to me than niche marketing.  It sits better in my belly & I fully rely on my body & gut instincts to lead me.  So how do I go about creating that membrane?  I believe it will take some brain-storming, asking a lot of questions & actually listening to the answers that I get.  Thank you so much for speaking in such a way where moving forward feels exciting again in the one aspect of my business that I’ve been waffling over.

    I love up my clients & the people in my community.  Being Valentine’s Day it seems like this should be my favorite day of the year but it’s really not.  I’d rather love people up on every other *non-special* day.

    Thanks again for a thoughtful post!

    • Anonymous

      Annette- It can indeed be a deep question. I should point out that “niche” and “semi-permeable” are perhaps two different things, at least in my mind. Niche or target market, if you’ll forgive me the word, have to do with the group of people you are trying to reach. However, that may or may not be sufficient to define your community. Our community is an alumni community. There’s the huge big group of people we are wanting to reach, there’s the smaller section of that we are reaching, and there is the smaller subset of that who have become our clients and customers who are our alumni.

      Just worth not confusing too much. People have to self-select to belong to your community, where-as the group you are wanting to reach, your niche, already has an identity they connect with that has nothing to do with you, except that you serve them.

      • Anonymous

        I completely agree that niche & semi-permeable are two different things.  For the time being, I’m super simplifying things just to get my ball moving.  It’s an interesting contrast between the two & would truly love for the people I serve to be a part of my community.

        I like how you phrase the different circles in your community, it’s a visual that I can see in my mind’s eye & it helps to clarify the semi-permeable concept a little more.  Thank you so much!  Much for me to think on!

  • Hi Mark, yet another wonderfully written, thought-provoking post. Normally, I try not to read the responses before I post mine, but this had me a bit stumped. I think I’m still trying to find my ideal community and  perhaps I jumping around too much and not giving any one community a chance.

    I’ve chosen #2 (What are you loyal to that you also want your community loyal to? How can you express your loyalty?) to answer but I think I need to narrow down both my loyalties and my community before I can truly define it.

    Is it okay to belong to many communities and have many loyalties or does that dilute the effect? I really agree with your sentence, “When people are given too much loyalty, it corrupts the heart.” Whose heart is being corrupted. I understand you to mean the heart of the receiver, but I believe the heart of the giver can also be damaged

    I’m re-reading this and realizing it’s rambling. I’ll have to give these ideas more thought and figure out which ingredients I need to really stock up on!

    • Anonymous

      Shelley- I believe we all belong to many communities, and have many loyalties. However, I only have the time and attention to give to a very few communities, so in some sense my loyalty is “diluted.”

      It might be helpful, it occurs to me, to disconnect “loyalty” from “commitment.” There are things I’m very loyal to in my heart, and yet I have fewer material commitments to them in my day to day life.

  • Hi Mark. I’ve enjoyed following you on Twitter. This is outstanding and wonderfully insightful. 

    I will speak to question #2. When I set up my blog three years ago, I forced myself to clarify exactly what the message of the blog would be. The tag line for the blog – “it’s a great day to be you!” – came from one of my throw-it-up-against-the-wall brainstorming sessions. I needed to clearly define the heartbeat of the blog and work backwards from there. Once defined, that became the core. That is where my loyalty is.

    Sure, my name is on the blog, but I’ve always felt that my message is far more important than the messenger. My writing reflects my life experience, but the goal is that by sharing my own road to happiness, others may find their own as well. 

    Thank you for your insights and being a part of this series. Greatly appreciated!

    • Anonymous

      Peter- thanks! I hope we can connect on Twitter, then, more- I’d love to get to know you there.

      I like your tag line, it has a certain ring to it, and I’m wondering if people are feeling confused at all whether the “you” you are mentioning refers to them as they read it? To build loyalty and following, it might be helpful to get more clear on the “you” you are speaking to. Just being curious…

  • rmsorg

    @twitter-32167968:disqus  I too loved how he states that the human heart is not meant to be worshipped but to SERVE!  Very profound! @Mark_Silver:disqus I thoroughly enjoyed, learned and connected with this post!  I am officially part of your community (LOL) 

    Thanks for taking the time to write such a thought-provoking and insightful post on loyalty.


    • Anonymous

      So glad you enjoyed this, RM. And shazam, there is community. 🙂

  • Anonymous

    Hi Mark

    Circular is right! I found myself re-reading parts to make sure I understood correctly. Love and loyalty seem so intertwined that they appear, to me anyway, to overlap. And I like the membrane analogy very much-it’s a perfect description of a living community.

    I don’t really have anything to offer now, as I want to stew on the questions you posed.

    Thanks so much for a mind-stretching post.

    Lori Finnigan (aka @DooneyPug)

    • Anonymous

      Lori- being stretched, it’s a good thing, eh?

  • Anonymous

    Really Great “Ingredients” to build loyalty .  I love the way you have put this out to us.  Love, heart, connections, commitment and keeping this all alive.  I really like the thought of keeping it easy or do you should you make it harder… I guess we get this ingrained in our minds “the harder it is the more it is worth it”.  Does it really have to be this way or is there another way?  Maybe we just have to express our love and then it will be easy and the flow that follows will be easy and abundant.  Just my thoughts…

    • Anonymous

      I hear you, jPeter. My experience, and the teachings in my lineage, is that challenge is just a part of life, and something to welcome. I like that prayer, “Lord, don’t take away my burdens… give me the strength to carry them.” The challenges help us develop into our best selves. I believe there is an instinct in the human heart that enjoys challenge and difficulty, when it’s sincere and healthy, because of the opportunity it represents.

  • Oh, wow – finally someone talking about the membrane! I’ve been bombarded by the ‘inclusion’ and ‘we are all the same’ concepts for so long, my friends thought I am crazy when I was talking about exact that: a wall that’s not necesarily too high to make it a prison for the inside people, but not too low that everybody jumps in, including the ones that just pass by and have no intention of belonging to the community. I just need to define my community so well that the membrane will just auto-define itself. I love this concept! Thanks for sharing!

    • Anonymous

      Yes! It’s so true. We’re not all the same, and it’s okay. 🙂 Thanks, Alicia! Go rock the membrane!

  • Very nice to meet you Mark.  2 2+ years running my own retail business. I’ve always spoken about my loyal clients with LOVE. It is SOOOO refreshing to hear a business MAN speak of LOVE for business and the clients who bring it to you! The human heart is made to serve , not to be worshiped…the truth! And doesn’t it feel so much better to serve because the “getting back” is included every single time!
    I’m relating to the community effort here in your dialog. Just this past month, I’ve stepped back out into my community and started seeing what the heck is going on around here! HAHA! I’m now supporting South County Outreach through my business, which sees to the needs of the homeless or families who don’t have enough food. I’m now sharing this contribution call with my clients. “You support this outreach by supporting this business. We are all helping each other.” Which in turn makes our business and our local clients a new and improved community in itself.
    I’ve been working 30 years now and it’s so exciting to be a part of the new way of business today…LOVE+Loyalty(Faith)+Community= Success and better times for all.
    AND, I loved the readers comment about sending cookies to the people doing random acts of kindness! YES!!

    • Anonymous

      Hi Colleen- I swear I replied already, but it’s not here. Anyway. Really love your enthusiasm and it’s fantastic to see you stepping out with such leadership. Thank you, and great to meet you here, too.