Actualized Leadership: Passion

Actualized Leadership: Passion

Nothing great in the world has been accomplished without passion.
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

Follow your passion and success will follow you.

Most organizations have Mission Statements and spend a significant amount of time, and money, on strategic planning sessions to create their Vision.  But if the above statements are true, and I think that they are, it seems to me that organizations should consider adopting “Passion Statements” that convey the why of what they do.  The purpose of this blog is to examine the concept of passion and the role it plays, or should play, in our lives.

Passion is defined as “a strong and barely controllable emotion.”  It is interesting to note that passion can mean very different things: joy, excitement, anger, rage, and lust.  We use phrases like “a crime of passion” to describe a violent and tragic act usually brought on by jealousy on the one hand, and then a “passionate love affair” to denote an exciting romantic relationship on the other.

When it comes to leadership and self-actualization, I think of passion as the fire and energy that fuel our behavior.  Passion is why we get up early, why we work late, and why we keep persisting in the face of disappointments and setbacks.

Passionate Leadership

From a leadership perspective, passion produces a number of things, including energy, influence, and persistence.  First, leaders who are passionate are driven forward by an additional reservoir of energy.  Rather than just going through the motions and trying to hang on until 5:00pm, they are energized to work as long as it takes to get the job done.  Second, passion is contagious and will ignite others.  Those working around you feel your energy and commitment, and are more likely to be energized as a result.  John Wesley said, “When you set yourself on fire, people love to come and see you burn.”  When you are burning and working with passion, you are more effective at influencing others.  And, passion helps sustain you during challenging times.  There are many times when the logical thing to do is to quit.  Yet, passionate leaders are more likely to persist in the face of obstacles and setbacks, ultimately living to fight, and often win, another day.

Passion and Success

In the book “If it Ain’t Broke … Break It!” authors Kriegel and Patler cite a study that examined the role of passion in success and happiness.  The study selected 1,500 people who were embarking on their careers and followed them over a 20-year period.  In the study, Group A consisted of 1,245 (or 83%) participants who chose careers that had a high potential for making a lot of money initially so that they could do what they wanted to do later in life.  The other 255 (or 17%) participants, Group B, chose their career for the exact opposite reason: they decided to follow their passion now and worry about money later.

At the end of the 20 years, 101 of the 1,500 participants had become millionaires.  And guess what—100 out of the 101 were from Group B, those who had chosen to follow their passion.  Clearly, there is something to be said for finding and following your passion.

So, in addition to organizations having Passion Statements, maybe you should too.  What are you passionate about?  Are you following your passion today?  When you are at work do others come around to watch you burn, or do you huddle together around the warmth of the clock ticking towards 5:00pm?

A very good Book says that “Where there is no vision, the people will perish.”  Maybe something similar could be said about passion.  When we live without passion we may not perish, but we certainly won’t feel alive.


  1. Anna Kamgaing

    “At the end of the 20 years, 101 of the 1,500 participants had become millionaires. And guess what—100 out of the 101 were from Group B, those who had chosen to follow their passion. Clearly, there is something to be said for finding and following your passion.”

    I’ve been a lifetime member of club A, so this is not good news. The problem with passion is that it’s “barely controllable.” Living on that ledge of passion is absolutely enlivening but is it sustainable? And those who’ve joined you at the hip in a dispassionate life start dropping like flies when things start heating up. They know when “you’re onto something” and can sniff it out a million miles away. I’ve always seen passion as a trap. Anytime I get close to the cheese, I remember what it feels like to die a thousand deaths and I run the other way because my “real” life is sure to protect me. And you’re right, though I continue to live, I don’t “feel alive” and my “vision” is lost to the illusion of safety.

    • Michael Odell

      Anna, you will probably rarely succeed with passion as your first endearing quality. Yet I would argue that when you do, that passion sustains beyond yourself. If you are worried about getting burned, then you are simply not ready to let go and become more. This isn’t for everyone. Passion keeps me coming back to work everyday to change the way we deliver health care. I will make my changes one person at a time. It’s not about taking chances. It’s about not taking them at all. Good thoughts. All my best.

      • Anna Kamgaing

        I just imagined this slick used car dealer looking at me out from over his dated spectacles saying, “Now, this ain’t for everyone.” 🙂

        It’s wonderful that you’ve found your passion or … that you’re exercising your passion within the healthcare industry.

        Thank you for the challenge.

  2. Bill Favenesi

    I actually believe this is why companies should have “Purpose” statements. For me, a purpose statement is why you get up in the morning, get dressed, and go to work. If you have no purpose for work, you have no drive to be successful or to change the community you work in.

  3. Norris Frederick

    Great post, Will, and one of my favorite quotes from Hegel.

  4. Dr Will Sparks

    I think passion is sustainable when we are aligned in the “Renewal Sequence” – thinking in the present moment (OTO), comfortable in our own skin (Self Acceptance) and embracing down time alone (Solitude). In this way I think we are better able to manage and channel our passion to productive means (instead of implosion.) To loosely quote Helen Keller, security is “mostly a superstition, it does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.”

  5. Melissa Badger

    I love this post and it comes at the perfect time. Thank you!

  6. Devin Leshin

    Interestingly, this aligns with what I look forward to most in the upcoming coaching sessions. While I use the term “fulfilled”, we are fulfilled when we are living in a manner that allows us to be passionate. That has eluded me over the years.

    Working in Marketing, I have noticed a strange phenomenon that I do not believe is unique. Companies try to “speak” to customers in a way devoid of passion. Much of the collateral produced strives to be clinical and data heavy. While the use of data is important to validate your company to potential clients, people do not tend to buy products or services unless there is an emotional connection. What better way to generate that emotional connection than to let your company culture shine through? Why not let the passion for what your company does permeate your content? These are questions that I have not gotten satisfactory answers for and yet, most companies do not change the direction of their message.

    • Anna Kamgaing

      The ‘marketing’ shops I’ve come across that contract with corporate are as equally afraid of losing their jobs. They know there are certain “brand” constraints and fear to suggest anything smacking of passion because it will just fall on deaf ears. Instead of trying to convince the “corporation” that they could actually use an infusion of the new and inspired, they back down, all in favor of contract renewal. Those who manage contracts on the corporate side are as equally afraid of being known as the rotten apples who allowed “deviance” into the organization. Even companies who are hired specifically to bring creativity to an organization, know that it is meant to be delivered within some elusive realm of reason.


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