In his now classic book, Good To Great, Jim Collins identifies what he calls “Level 5” leaders as having the “personal humility” and “fierce resolve” needed to transform their companies from good to great. “Fierce resolve” is another way of describing “passion.” Passion is essential if you want people to follow you on a difficult journey of change. [Read last week’s post: The Leader’s Soul On Fire (#1).]
So when a leader has passion that will attract followers, what does it look like?
First, followers will see passion for the mission—the purpose—of the organization. I’m not talking about passion for profit or for being the biggest. Passion for the mission endures through the ups and downs of the economy. Purpose is more important than profit or the Sunday headcount.
“We try never to forget that medicine is for people. It is not for profits. The profits follow….”
George W. Merck (from The Leadership Moment by Michael Useem)
Do you have passion for the mission of your organization? Or are you just trying to make a buck?
Second, as a leader you must have passion for change. Kouzes & Posner in The Leadership Challenge emphasize that “…the work of leaders is change.” So, if nothing is changing, you aren’t leading. If you by nature don’t like change, you can’t lead because leading is all about change. You can supervise; you can manage; you can contribute; but you can’t lead.
Third, a leader must have passion for people. You don’t lead machines; you don’t lead software; you don’t lead buildings; you lead people. Leading is always about people. I have a friend who once said to me, ”I would love my job if it weren’t for people.” My response was, “You need to get a different job.” (By the way, passion for people doesn’t mean that you are a soft leader who shies away from difficult people problems.) If you don’t really care much about the people you are trying to lead, they’ll know and will only follow you kicking and screaming.
A fourth passion leaders must have is passion for personal excellence. No organization ever rises above the level of its leadership. The leader is the lid—always! So if you want an excellent organization, you have to be an excellent leader. Whatever level you lead at now, you can raise it, and you need to.
Finally, for faith-based leaders, you must have a passion for honoring God in your work whether in business or ministry.
“And whatever you do…in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus….”
Colossians 3:17 (NIV)
Wouldn’t “do it all” include your job?
Are you trying to lead but it seems like a never-ending trek up a steep hill? Ask yourself if you really have passion for leading. Do you have fire in your soul for the mission? For change? For people? For personal excellence? For honoring God? If not, get out your match and light the fire of leadership passion in your soul. Do it today!
[In The Leader’s Soul On Fire (#3), I will discuss faux passions—passions that really aren’t.]
Jim Collins has hit the nail on the head again. In How The Mighty Fall, he identifies five stages of decline that falling organizations go through as they disappear altogether or become irrelevant.
Collins defines Stage 3 as Denial of Risk and Peril. He says:
“In Stage 3, leaders discount negative data, amplify positive data, and put a positive spin on ambiguous data. Those in power start to blame external factors for setbacks rather than accept responsibility. The vigorous, fact-based dialogue that characterizes high-performance teams dwindles or disappears altogether.”
Basically, he is saying that the leader(s) are hiding from at least four fundamental tasks and principles of leadership:
1. Facts (real facts, not opinions) are your friends;
2. Defining reality is a key task of leadership;
3. Examine self first — no organization ever rises above the level of its leadership;
4. Get input and perspective from as many sources as possible (restricted access and input is a certain mark of Stage 3).
It is interesting that organizations get to Stage 3 by way of Stages 1 and 2: Hubris (organizational and personal) and Lack of Discipline (organizational and personal). Why does Stage 3 happen so easily in organizations? Leaders put self-interests and pride ahead of the organization. How many times have you heard a leader say: “This is my fault”?
As a leader, I’ve had my head in the sand a few times (maybe more than a few times). Where’s your head these days?
"The best way to lead people into the future is to connect with them deeply in the present."
Kouzes & Posner