We’ve all been around leaders who inspire and motivate us. They consistently demonstrate a positive and optimistic sense of energy and enthusiasm for others to follow and are usually the first ones in the office every day. They are constantly encouraging and supporting their employees and teams and believe in the mission and purpose of the organization. They rally the troops behind a powerful vision and aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty and get in the trenches with others. All of this enables others to perform at their best and opens the door for innovation and creativity.
Passionate leaders garner the greatest support and followership from their people. They trigger commitment and dedication to key strategic objectives from employees at all levels of their organizations. When leaders bring energy and excitement to their work, it is contagious. Without passion, employees will come up with all types of excuses as to why they struggle with their focus. Passion is the fuel that keeps the fires of performance burning.
Passion in the workplace has its origins in the field of positive psychology. Martin Seligman, the father and pioneer of positive psychology, believed that the most satisfied, upbeat people are those who discover their unique combination of signature strengths. Seligman placed happiness and the pursuit of our passions in three categories: The “pleasant life” is about learning to savor and appreciate the basic pleasures of the connections and relationships we have with others; the “good life” is achieved through discovering our unique strengths and using them to achieve our goal and desired outcomes; and the “meaningful life” is about finding a deep sense of fulfillment by using our unique strengths for a purpose greater than ourselves. When applied to our work and professional lives, all three of these areas contribute to the way leaders can infuse their organizations with the drive and burning desire for people to succeed.
To become a passionate leader who motivates and galvanizes your people, you must consistently embrace four important actions:
- 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 develop and grow. Others believe in getting involved and hands-on in the work of their people. They enjoy rolling up their sleeves and being out in the field or in the lab with their teams. These leaders often act as mentors and coaches. They are passionate about doing the work and educating their folks along the way. They lead by example and put in just as much, if not more, work and effort as their people. These leaders value the influence they have on others. Whatever it is that you enjoy doing deep down in your core, make sure you’re doing it. This will enable you to lead in a way that has a positive impact on the people around you.
- Identify and leverage your strengths. The next step after identifying the things that matter most to you is to get crystal clear about your strengths. Most leaders have two to three things they do exceptionally well. You can work with an executive coach or a leadership advisor to determine if the things you enjoy are your actual key assets. The best way to get clear about this is through 360-degree feedback. This process will enable you to get a sense of your strengths and opportunities from a cross-section of colleagues across your organizations. Once your strengths have been identified, it is essential to spend 80%–90% of your time focused on what you do well. There is a time and place to focus on your blind spots and development opportunities, but when it comes to leading with passion, you must stick to what will drive success for your business. By focusing on your strengths, you will give the greatest effort and energy to delivering outstanding results for your organization.
- Link your passions to mission and purpose. Passions lead to your purpose as a leader. To effectively connect your passions to the greater good of the organization, you need to ask yourself the following types of questions: What is the impact you want to have on your people and the organization? How do you want to inspire and motivate others? Whom do you want to leave a lasting legacy with? What do you want to be known for across the organization? What do you want your leadership brand and reputation to be? These questions spark the inner drive and motivation to contribute in greater ways. It gets you out of the day-to-day grind so many leaders can get caught up in.
- Be willing to make the right sacrifices. Passion, in 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 genuinely value and love our work. This inevitably requires dedication and sacrifice. Leaders need to make sacrifices for other people. They need to set an example and, at times, put their personal interests aside for the greater good. The most talented leaders understand this principle. Look for opportunities to make an impact, and display your passion in consistent words and actions.
Passion drives success. It enables leaders to bring forth the energy and enthusiasm needed to make dreams a reality. Leaders who are passionate create a culture in which people are empowered to make decisions and challenge the status quo. They talk beyond today and anticipate new possibilities and make things 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 engage in your work. This will enable you to inspire the people around you to achieve great things.
Adam C. Bandelli, Ph.D. is the Managing Director of Bandelli & Associates, a boutique consulting firm focusing on leadership advisory services and organizational effectiveness. He is the author of the book, What Every Leader Needs: The Ten Universal and Indisputable Competencies of Leadership Effectiveness.