I have lost count of the number of times I’ve heard people say that they want their lives to count for something ... or that they want to make a difference. Yet, despite these apparently universal desires, rarely do people seem to believe that they can make that kind of impact through their existing jobs.
Not only does this perplex me, it makes me sad that employees don’t feel they are making a difference. What’s worse, is the realisation that many of them are working for passionless leaders.
Some argue that the most important elements of business are quality, the workforce, or the type of product or services you offer. For others, it is capital or a healthy balance sheet that matter most. It is true, each of these is important, but even if your business is cash-rich and your service is spot on, without passion, you can forget being number one.
Don’t get me wrong, money matters. I am a pure capitalist and I understand the importance of profit. I also strongly believe in shared prosperity, and in paying maximum wages for maximum productivity.
However, while pay and profit are — and should be — at the centre of corporate thinking, these factors alone are insufficient when it comes to achieving success. To truly succeed, people need a rallying call and a reason to perform at their best. Employees crave a sense of purpose and leaders need to give it to them.
So, why is it that passion is so critical to business? Well, because passion is the “silver bullet” for business. In fact, I believe it is the ingredient that sets top leaders apart from the rest.
While making money — whether for the corporate balance sheet or an employee’s paycheck — is the rational side of business, passion is the emotion that motivates you put more energy into something than is required.
When people hear the word “passion”, they usually think of love, lust or hate, but, in its purest form, passion is intense enthusiasm. In business, it is what spurs employees to go the extra mile, and what drives companies to offer the best quality, the best products and the best service each time.
Passion is ambition turned into action, with as much heart, mind body and soul as a person can muster. The reason that it matters so much in business is summarised by Plato’s belief that passion overwhelms reason. Businesses that act within reason and toe the line of convention never become number one, because success lies beyond the bounds of tradition.
Not only do strong leaders work with passion, they recognise the importance of building it in their organisations. Here, it is important to make a distinction: being passionate about your company and inspiring your team to feel passionate about their work are two related, yet different, aspects of leadership.
Just because you are passionate about your company, do not assume that the people you lead share your enthusiasm or the same level of passion.
Passion is not a given and, as a leader, it is your job to instill it in your employees. Just as trust, respect and loyalty must be earned, in some ways, so too must passion. To nurture a passionate workforce, you need to paint a picture of the future that is exciting, energising and rewarding.
In other words, give your team something to look forward to and help them feel proud about the company and the work they do.
Of course, if being the best doesn’t interest you and you and are not striving to be number one, then passion does not matter so much. But, the champions of business know that passion is the silver bullet of success. To be the very best, you must be tougher, you must be stronger, and you must want it more than the others.
If you want to ignite passion, then lead by example. Work with a purpose and be passionate about something bigger than pay and profits.
— Tommy Weir is the CEO of EMLC Leadership Ai Lab and author of “Leadership Dubai Style”. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.