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The 5 Gears of Leadership: Cog 2-Passion


There's a good bit of research about passion in the leader. Some of us need to study it and then reference it to validate our conclusions about how passion affects the mission. I'm not one of them. As a Christ follower, I'll take what Jesus said any day of the week, and stake my reputation on it. He said, "For where your trerasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matthew 6:20). Jesus knew that our treasure, our inner passion, would be the ignition button for life.

The other day I was browsing through a box of files and notebooks and came across the video of my presentation at the Gallup Leadership Institute in 2001. Each participant was required to present a vision piece to the group that was definitive of our personal strengths and approach to leadership. Mine was titled "Brains on Fire". It was about what happens in leaders when passion drives them. It was a catchy title but not original. My credits in the presentation included a reference to the Brains on Fire advertising firm in Greenville, South Carolina. What a graphic company name. When I first encounterted it I envisioned a group of highly motivated hyper-thinkers whose brains were burning hot with fresh ideas, innovations in marketing strategy, a conceptual think tank of creativity. When they read my blog about it they called. What I had imagined about their mission and environment was right on point. They were on fire!

Passionate leaders are on fire too. And, that's one of the reasons passion is essential in leaders. And, there are more than one.

(1) Passion ignites energy in a leader. There's something about the quickened pulse in a leader whose passions are being tapped in the fulfillment of a mission. It goes by a lot of names but being "pumped" or "jazzed" or "psyched" or "amped" or experiencing a "rush" are a few of them.

(2) Passion seldom drains a leader. When we're operating in the area of our personal strengths or passions there's rarely the mental and spiritual stress that is required to operate in totally alien territory. In what's some people call operating in the "zone", that is, the place where all our cylinders are clicking and we're accomplishing a lot because it comes naturally to us.

(3) Passionate leaders ignite the people around them. It's not merely enthusiasm. Genuine passion can't be whipped up in a frenzy of cheerleading or back-slapping or even positive re-inforcement. Leaders whose internal fires are buring because of passion can inspire that same sense of urgency in their team-members.

(4) When leaders are passionate about their mission, goals and objectives are achieved. This passion creates eager pursuit of mission and focuses the team on the final product, and not all the peripheral side-tracks that rob the team of so many resources.

(5) The burn out rate of passionate leaders is minimal. There's a distinction that must be made here. Passionate doesn't equate to workaholic. The inner drive focuses on a goal and pursues it with great energy and effectiveness. But, passion runs deep and usually translates to a similar affection for health, family, and other protective systems.

When I presented at Gallup those years ago, I did some mental calisthenics about whether I should use a Scripture reference as a basis for my "Brains on Fire" presentation. Gallup is a secular organizaton but very open to spiritual leadrership and influence. So, I went back and forth about it. We were one of the many groups in Lincoln, Nebraska at the time (they have since moved to Omaha) on September 11, 2001. Everyone there was especially aware of the horrible tragedy in New York since we watched the entire thing on giant screens in the main lobby area. So, I decided to use a text in my talk and power point presentation. It was my passion.

It was a verse from 2 Timothy. "For I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you..." ( 2 Timothy 1:6). See, he wires us for life in our mother's womb, and instills talent, ability, heart and mind, and yes, passion into each of us. The sooner we discover his endowments the better our lives will be.

And, leaders, must possess passion for their work or calling or career.


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