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The Problem with Passion

We hear a great deal today about how leaders need to create a sense of passion, or engagement, within organizations. There are numerous books written on the subject. What I find interesting, though, is that so many leaders tend to point to their employees as the problem. It becomes a blame game on who did what or who didn’t do what.

In reality, if you want to transform your company you have to first transform your people. You simply can’t transform a company unless there’s a high level of individual transformation as well.

Transformation is how people connect to something. As an executive officer, you want people to connect to your Vision (BHAG). You want them to see the connection between what they do today and your specific strategic Key Initiatives. You want them to set standards for their own performance (individual KPIs) and to feel a sense of control over their own accomplishments which, in turn, serve the company’s overall strategic intent.

But the problem with creating passion is that you can’t force feed it to people. Instead, it’s the creation of helping people see the difference they make in what they do and how they do it. It’s sharing with people what they’re doing well and what they might consider doing differently. It’s creating a culture of listeners. It’s hiring people who have not only the skills needed to perform a job but also have the emotional intelligence to do what they do as a part of a team. Passion doesn’t come from checklists; passion comes from much deeper within. It comes from meaning. It comes from knowing your place and from knowing that you get to do what you do best every single day.

Some organizational leadership styles seem to work hard to steal passion, or at least put a dent in it. I doubt that this is the intent, but it can certainly be the outcome. Passion can’t be stolen (since it’s an inside job) but it can be swayed. It can be hit. It can be beat up. It all comes down to this: How do you get people to do what you need them to do with a sense of pride, enthusiasm, and passion? How do you transform a corporate culture into higher levels of performance on every front?

It’s a journey, but first and foremost is that your leaders must learn how to channel human emotions. This isn’t ‘soft stuff.’ It’s very real because the best of leaders simply understand the business relevance of channeling human emotions. (This isn’t a discussion about dysfunctional leadership that manipulates people. This is a discussion about the functional side of positively transforming an organization.) If you can grasp this key link between humanity and business performance, you’ll ignite a corporate sense of passion as you’ve never before imagined.

The problem with passion, then, is that most leaders don’t have it themselves. They think they do, but many of them certainly don’t lead as if they do. If you have it, then use it to connect to the passion of those around you. If you’ve lost it, then find it again. Either way, passion will serve you well in creating long-term tangible business results.

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