Lead With Passion or Don’t Bother Leading At All

By Lauren Lee Anderson

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Nelson Mandela once said, “There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” In regards to leadership, the same sentiment applies. Passion, without compromise, is the fuel behind all great leaders.

Passion Spreads

To lead means to move others to action or to follow you on your mission. Passion is the infectious, essential ingredient. Unveil what drives you to transport others.

Passion creates a following. A great leader, as Seth Godin would say, creates a tribe. “A tribe is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea.” A leader’s passion, infectious by way of an ingenious idea followed by believers, is what ultimately helps a company grow and prosper.

When you burn brightly, flying embers can spark the fire in the bellies of your team. Sounds colorful, maybe even cheesy, but true. Here are a couple ways to make that passion burn like wildfire in your team.

3 Ways To Stoke Passion

There are three things you can do to stoke people’s passions:

1. Set high goals

Set the bar high. Not unattainably high, but out of immediate reach. Paint the big picture, so your team sees exactly what is worthy of their time and energy. For example, monthly sales targets are a limited way of understanding the bigger bottom line. Not that you need to reveal all the financials, but set the incremental goals in the context of the greater target. If we can get from A to B, here’s what the future horizon could look like..

And on top of that, set goals that place the team as best in class at anything. We want to become the best at customer service. Watch out Zappos. Give your people reason to be cohesive and pointed in the same direction.

Your passion for being bigger and better than the best can and will infiltrate the minds, attitudes and behaviors of your team. If you believe it, they will too.

2. Measure and Report

Setting the goal is one thing but ensuring benchmarks and milestones are measured and reported help your team to see how far they have come and how much further to push. Just like on a road trip, knowing where you are on a map can keep you excited to journey onwards to your destination knowing how many miles are already behind you.

Broadcast these achievements, create visuals, and push your team with excited vigor and diligent measuring of each gain against goals and do so with visibility so everyone knows they’re sailing the same ship.

3. Recognize and Acknowledge

Keep people passionate with feedback. As mentioned, people like to know where they are in their journey to the end goal but they also care about how their actions actually contribute to the cause. Let them know!

If someone had a hand in encouraging a colleague, tell them how this has accelerated the trajectory towards achieving the goal. If someone has had their head down all week, let them hear that you noticed their dedication.

Passion and compassion go hand-in-hand, so when you reach out to stoke the fires, using a kind and warm approach is always best.

Don’t Mistake Being Boisterous For Being Passionate

Keep it real and keep your cool. Passion is not about volume. It is not about yelling and it is not about fist pumping and wall-punching.

True passion is about being committed to something that you care about deeply and sticking with it when things get tough. Erika Andersen, author of Lead So People Will Follow, identifies the indicators of a leader with true passion as being genuine. They are true to their passion, even when no one is watching. Also they can make a clear case for their beliefs without blindly dismissing other perspectives. A leader with true passion is open to discuss varying views and are willing to “walk-the-walk” when it comes time to act in line with their beliefs.

No megaphone required.

5 Ways To Identify Boisterous Behavior

Avoid abusing or misusing passion by identifying these indicators of boisterous behaviour:

a) Stormy – moody and unpredictable.

b) Overriding of others – leading by being the loudest in the room.

c) Superficial – uses passion as a decoy to ulterior motives.

d) Lack of Attention to Detail – makes mistakes in the name of reaching targets.

e) Prone to Shortcuts – seeks instant gratification instead of paying the necessary dues.

What we ask of our leaders should be the same as what we ask ourselves when leading: what is pushing you to the top? If the answer includes all motivations except passion, we kindly ask you to abdicate the throne. Lead with passion, or kindly step down.

What leaders in history do you think exemplify true passion? We want to hear your thoughts, leave a comment below.

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