Inspiring, effective leaders will HAVE passion and EXPRESS passion. Passion is having boundless enthusiasm for something. Expressing that passion shows people what you care about.
Leaders can be passionate about building teams, their industry, their products, winning, solving complex challenges, safety, having fun, the sales process, new technology, connection to community…you name it. There is no limit to what people can be passionate about.
And showing that passion can have enormous benefits. It can show a team where leaders value focus. It can give people permission to show their own enthusiasm. It can keep people going when the inevitable difficulties show up. It gets people to move with alacrity. It creates room for creativity.
Take a look at what I call the Passion Grid. It shows the relationship between having passion and expressing passion.
If leaders have passion, but don’t show it they can come across as guarded to others. Guarded leaders may struggle to make emotional connections with the team. People may be on board the tasks they are doing, but they may not have a close connection with the why.
If leaders don’t have passion, but still try to express it, they will come across as fake. Leaders in this category will struggle with people wanting to buy in or commit, because they don’t trust that the leader really cares either.
If leaders are low in passion, and not expressive, they can be black holes to the team. Leaders in this category will leave people wondering where they stand and can degrade engagement. Their team may be wondering why they should care if their leader doesn’t seem to care either.
Where are you on the Passion Grid? Do you have passion? Do you show it?
If your passion seems to be low, dig in and find it. There must be some aspect of the job that relates to something you are passionate about. Not everyone is in an industry or selling a product that they really love, but they may really care about being of service or people development. Spend some time and list up what really motivates you.
If you are low on expressing that passion, why is that? Are you worried what people might think? Do you simply expect facts to do all the heavy lifting of motivating a team? Reagan is considered a great leader because he expressed his passion for the American values of freedom and democracy. He did not just limit himself to why people would be better off with his tax policies.
Some cautions about passion:
1.Passion can lead to strong emotions. Those emotions might be positive and they might be negative. Be careful of the negative. A leader who is passionate about their team might get overly defensive when that team is criticized by others. A leader might get angry if they feel others do not share their passion for the customer experience. Leaders must make sure that their passion is expressed positively.
2. Don’t let your passion drive you to try and convert others. You may be very passionate about “servant leadership.” That will not resonate with others and that’s ok. Others may have passion for numbers or technology and still be highly effective team members. Your particular passion does not need to be the passion of others in every case.
3. Make sure your expressed passions are contextually appropriate. You may be very passionate about subjects like politics, education, health, but these may be off-putting to others and not appropriate for work. Use common sense about what you get fired up about with your work team.
When people use the term “corporate” (as in “this place feels very corporate”) they do not mean it as a compliment. The word usually means soulless and uncaring. Don’t be afraid to be passionate. People want and need leaders who honestly care about what they do and are not scared to show it. Let that be you.