Raising the level of your leadership

The Leader's Soul On Fire (#3)

In last week’s post, I wrote about the five dimensions of passion you need to lead a group of followers on a long and difficult journey of significant change. You need passion for the mission (the journey and destination), passion for change, passion for people, passion for personal excellence, and if you are a person of faith, passion for honoring God.

Today, let me mention a few faux passions that aren’t necessary for leadership and in some cases make it harder or impossible to lead.

Faux Passion #1: Sentiment. When you were a little boy or girl, there was always, “When I grow up I’m going to be a….” My boyhood dream was to be a cowboy. (Duh! I grew up in Oklahoma.) Or a baseball player. (Duh! Mickey Mantle was from Oklahoma.) I have a daughter who wanted to be a missionary or a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader—she’s an actress. Neither one of us have regrets that our childhood dreams were not realized as adults. So in spite of what your therapist may say, childhood dreams are not always the answer to adult fulfillment or passion for leading.

Faux Passion #2: Loving The Task. It is great if you love the product or program, but you don’t have to love it to lead it, and often you won’t. Louis Gerstner, Jr., left RJR Nabisco (cigarettes and Oreos) in 1993 to become CEO of IBM (mainframe computers). Do you think he loved computers more than Oreos? I suspect he didn’t love either one. But he did have passion for leading—for “trying to build organizations that allow for hierarchy but at the same time bring people together for problem solving, regardless of where they are positioned in the organization.” Now that’s passion for the mission and leaders have to have it! (Quote from Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance? by Gerstner; a great read for leaders.)

Faux Passion #3: Emotion. I am sick and tired of people rationalizing angry, emotional, people-hurting outbursts with, “I’m just so passionate.” Emotions and passions are not the same thing.
     Emotions explode; passion burns steadily.
     Emotions are here today, gone tomorrow; passion sticks around.
     Emotions can turn and walk away; passion has to do something.
     Emotions are about self; passion is about something important apart from self.
     Emotions rage; passion reasons.

It may be a convenient excuse to explain bad emotional behavior as passion, but it’s not true and it will hurt your ability to lead—every time.

I would be interested in your ideas on Faux Passions you’ve observed. Also, don’t forget to register for the November 5th Hard Lessons Workshop on the homepage. I look forward to seeing you there!

One response to “The Leader's Soul On Fire (#3)”

  1. Scott says:


    A shot in the ARM that I needed.

    There are times going through the regulatory and other hassles of our business lately that the love for the product can wane (even as I know how much good it does for others), as other products don’t have this much hair on them.

    The passion for problem solving, providing a great place to work, serving our clients in the best manner possible, hold true regardless of the product.



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