“If I were a heathen, I would rear a statue to energy, and fall down and worship it.” — Mark Twain, 19th century Amercian author and humorist
Too many people are indifferent about what they do and are detached from their work. They drift through life like the bumper sticker, “I am neither for nor against apathy.” Working with them, or trying to follow their lead, is about as invigorating as sitting in a cold drizzle watching your kid’s team lose a baseball game.
As a fiery author and speaker on the topic, leadership leader Tom Peters has done a great job of passionately making the case for leadership passion. It is vital. Passionate leaders have the energy and drive needed to push and pull their teams and organizations forward. This rousing passion is the energy source that powers the technology, systems, and processes that boost personal, team, and organization performance to ever-higher levels.
In his study of hundreds of “peak performers” that now spans three decades Charles Garfield found, “Preference with a passion — intense commitment to what they do — is one of the single most dramatic differences between peak performers and their less productive colleagues…many told me they can trace their performance more clearly to preference than to aptitude, more to how they feel about what they are doing than what they know.”
Passion, energy, enthusiasm, commitment, intensity, fervor, and zeal have always been the driving force of effective leaders:
- “Failure is more frequently from want of energy than want of capital.” — Daniel Webster, 19th century American statesman and orator
- “Every great and commanding moment in the annals of the world is the triumph of some enthusiasm.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature, Addresses and Lectures: Man the Reformer
- “Years wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul.” — Samuel Ullman, author and poet
- “Genius is mainly an affair of energy.” — Matthew Arnold, 19th century American poet and critic
Leaders With a Cause
“This the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one.” — George Bernard Shaw, 19th century Irish playwright, critic, and social reformer
People rally around passionate leaders with a compelling vision and purpose. Those who are so passionate about their work that they have turned it into a cause draw us, like insects to the back porch light. The American clergyman and personal effectiveness writer and speaker, Norman Vincent Peale, considered a burning conviction and contagious enthusiasm to be the most critical factor in successful living and leadership (listening to him speak was an inspiring and invigorating experience). He once said, “Your enthusiasm will be infectious, stimulating and attractive to others. They will love you for it. They will go for you and with you.”
Whether you’ve loved him, hated him, or just wanted to ignore him, strong convictions are why Rush Limbaugh has been so popular. It’s also why some of the greatest transformations of our time were led by passionate leaders, such as, Lee Iaccoca at Chrysler, Jack Welch at GE, David Kearns at Xerox, Sam Walton at Wal-Mart, and Bill Gates at Microsoft.
Effective leaders generate action. Leadership is an action, not a position. That action comes from creating energy through excitement (the pull or gain of what could be), urgency (the push to avoid the pain of poor performance), or some combination of both. This creates focus and harnesses the deep urge we all have to be part of something meaningful — to make a difference. To know that we are doing something worthwhile, that we are striving for a worthy goal (which may be to avert disaster).
Effective leaders rally people throughout their organizations or teams, customers, suppliers, strategic partners, shareholders, and anyone else that can help around a cause. They transform jobs into crusades, exciting adventures, or deeper missions.