Loyal to the End (?) Examining the Meaning of Loyalty among High-Ranking Military Officers


  • Torbjörn Engelkes
  • Erik Hedlund
  • Gerry Larsson


Organizations need co-workers who are committed to common goals and that are loyal to the core values of the organization.[1] The conscious fostering of organizational core values is seen as an important tool in creating loyal co-workers and hence an effective organization.[2] Professions with a strong vocational calling such as medicine (Kallin, 2010), the police (Ewin, 1990; Foust, 2018) or the military[3] have particular demands on loyalty to certain core values, and individuals are expected to adopt these as their own. However, organizational core values can be contradictive (Billig, 1988) and sometimes in conflict with the individual´s own core values which – when incompatible – can in turn cause severe moral stress and mental illness.[4] This implies a need for clarification about what is expected from members of an organization concerning the objectives and manifestations of core values. In terms of loyalty, the military profession is possibly one of the most demanding, expecting individuals to risk their own lives and to kill other human beings for the benefit of the organizational goals. However, since misplaced loyalty can cause destructive,[5] and unethical behaviour[6] with enormous consequences – especially in the military (Winslow, 1998) – there is a need to be clear about what kind of loyalty behaviour is constructive and vice versa. Although loyalty is a concept that seems to be defined in many different ways, the number of studies of loyalty and its meaning are quite limited - especially in military research.[7] The overall purpose of this study is to broaden understanding of the meaning of loyalty within the military. Because important core values of an organization are set – or strongly influenced[8] – by its leaders,[9] the aim of this study was to explore how high ranking officers in the Swedish Aarmed Forces (SAF) give meaning to their own personal experiences of loyalty and to describe possible common patterns within the participant group.





How to Cite

Torbjörn Engelkes, Erik Hedlund, & Gerry Larsson. (2023). Loyal to the End (?) Examining the Meaning of Loyalty among High-Ranking Military Officers. RES MILITARIS, 13(3), 936–953. Retrieved from https://resmilitaris.net/index.php/resmilitaris/article/view/3478