Leaders need passion. Passion breeds commitment. It breeds disciplined effort and the burning desire to do all that is necessary to succeed. I’ve seen many leaders use passion to impact the people around them. When they bring an energy and excitement to their work it is contagious. People want to perform better and give their all.
Passion in the workplace has its origins in the field of positive psychology. For the last thirty years, this field has contributed a wealth of research and information about passion, happiness, and fulfillment. Martin Seligman, the father and pioneer of positive psychology, believed that the most satisfied, upbeat people were those who had discovered and exploited their unique combination of “signature strengths,” such as humanity, temperance, and persistence.
Seligman viewed happiness, and the pursuit of our passions, in three categories: a) the Pleasant Life – learning to savor and appreciate basic pleasures such as companionship; b) the Good Life – achieved through discovering our unique virtues and strengths, and employing them with passion and energy to enhance our lives; and c) the Meaningful Life – finding a deep sense of fulfillment by using our unique strengths for a purpose greater than ourselves. All three of these areas can be applied to our work lives, and can be enhanced by injecting energy and passion into what we believe we are called to do.
Follow the four steps outlined below to infuse your leadership with passion:
Follow Your Heart: The best leaders identify the things that truly get them energized and excited. For some, it is seeing the people around them grow and develop. I once worked with an executive that prided himself on hiring and developing the best people. He would regularly take time for coaching, feedback, and mentoring. People grew tremendously because this leader took the time to develop their capabilities. I asked him once why he valued that so much. His response was simple. He had a mentor early on in his career and it helped his growth; it enabled him to have the confidence required to pursue his dreams. Whatever it is that you enjoy doing deep down at your core, make sure you are doing it.
Identify and Leverage Your Strengths: Once you have found the things that mean the most to you, it is important to get crystal clear about what you do well. You may like to influence others, but have never been in a role or situation where you have had to do so without authority. You may enjoy thinking strategically and big picture, but have spent most of your career to date focusing on execution and driving results. You need to determine what your key strengths are. By focusing on your strengths, you will give the greatest effort and energy to delivering outstanding results. The reason behind this is that we do our best when we are focused on the areas where we perform the strongest. Let others focus on the areas where you have developmental opportunities. Some of the best leaders understand what their gaps are, and know how to hand things off to others. Humility plays a big part here as few leaders wants to admit they have gaps; however, the ones that can check their ego usually leverage people with exceptional strengths and trust them to deliver.
Link Your Passions to Mission and Purpose: Our passions lead to our purpose as leaders. In consulting with my clients, I often ask them some of the following questions to get at mission and purpose: What is the impact you want to leave on your people and the organization? Who do you want to inspire and motivate? Who do you want to leave a lasting legacy with? What do you want to have been known for after you retire? These questions spark the inner drive and motivation to be more, and contribute more beyond the day-to-day. When our passions, the things that we do well, are linked to an overarching mission and purpose, the real juice of life starts to manifest itself.
Be Willing to Make Sacrifices: Passion at its truest essence is about sacrifice. As leaders, we tend to give our all when we truly believe in what we’re doing; when we truly value and love our work. This inevitably requires dedication and sacrifice. Leaders need to sacrifice for other people. They need to set an example, and at times, sacrifice their personal interests for the greater good. Some of the best leaders that I have worked with understand this principle. They look for opportunities to make an impact, and show others how their passion is displayed on a consistent basis. Passion drives success. It enables leaders to bring forth the energy and enthusiasm that is needed to make dreams a reality. Leaders who are passionate create a climate where people are empowered to make decisions and challenge the status quo. They talk beyond today, and anticipate new possibilities for the team and organization. They see possibilities and make them happen. If you want to lead with passion, make sure to focus on operating with a never-ending desire to be the best in your area of expertise. Be proactive in seizing opportunities and fully engaged in your work. This will enable you to manage resistance and fear of change at all levels with openness, clarity, and objectivity.
Adam C. Bandelli, Ph.D. is an Associate Client Partner at Korn Ferry/Hay Group, the preeminent authority on leadership and talent.
Leadership Matters. Without It, People Fail.