The Passionate Leader

Confession: I don’t much care for cheerleaders.

I mean, nothing against any particular cheerleaders personally, but the whole idea of some formulaic whipping up of crowd enthusiasm really leaves me cold. As does anything that smacks of manipulation and insincerity.

Faux enthusiasm is not genuine passion.

So if passion isn’t some fly-by-night outward expression of manufactured emotion, what is it?

It’s the coach who so deeply believes in the abilities of his team, and in the value of working together to win, that his eyes and voice inspire his players to do better than they think they can.

It’s the Army captain who believes so much that the cause of his nation is right, and that evil people must be stopped, that he inspires his troops to sacrificially charge ahead with him through danger and hardship.

It’s the lonely pastor of an obscure little flock in middle America, who believes that God and eternity and sin and redemption are absolutely real, and who inspires his handful of fellow travelers to press on through each day’s trials.

It’s the business leader who believes that there’s a better way, who seeks to create that better way, and who inspires investors and employees and customers to buy in to that vision and make it come to life.

Passion grows out of believing. It grows into inspiration. It has the distinct feeling of compulsion about it – it doesn’t bother with could be, but proceeds directly to must be without passing GO and collecting $200.

Many can be paid to pick up the pom-poms and give a few cheers for the team. A truly passionate leader is not a hireling, however, auctioning off abilities and some manufactured enthusiasm to the highest bidder. He or she is a believer. Who inspires, not employees, but followers.

Passion is fueled by vision, by a sense of right-ness, by a restless dissatisfaction with the status quo. Passion can be as loud as an opinionated talk show host, or as quiet as an unknown researcher laboring for years at her bench to find new ways to treat diabetes. Passion can be found at at a Silicon Valley startup or in a Virginia Beach nursery, each patiently building and shaping and investing in the future.

Passionate leaders aren’t leading cheers. They’re leading disciples.

Agree? Disagree? This Tuesday night (8 pm ET), we’ll be discussing passion and leadership for our weekly #LeadershipChat on Twitter. Before the magic hour, be sure you also read Lisa Petrilli’s post on passionate leadership.

(hint: one very easy way to participate is by using a client like Tweetchat. Just log in, read the stream of thoughts that are being shared, and feel free to chime in with your reactions and questions.)


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About Steve Woodruff
Steve Woodruff is a blogger, a Connection Agent, and a consultant in the pharma/healthcare industry. He specializes in helping people and companies make mutually beneficial connections.

3 Responses to The Passionate Leader

  1. Pingback: LeadershipChat Transcript Nov 30, 2010 «

  2. Pingback: Social Media Marketing HQ | Learn Social Media From the Industry's Brightest Minds » Got Passion?

  3. Jeanne Male says:

    Steve, you and Lisa have struck a vein of gold and enthusiasm with this topic!

    The old “rah-rah” typically doesn’t reflect inspirational leadership any more than being a “cheerleader” makes for an effective follower.

    I agree with your very provocative statement: “Passion can be as loud as an opinionated talk show host, or as quiet as an unknown researcher laboring for years at her bench to find new ways to treat diabetes.” With such disparate outward displays of passion, I would enjoy hearing how the group answers the question, “What does passion look, walk, act and talk like?”

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