Bartolome de Torres.
Rodrigo de Jerez.
Do you know these men? Probably not. They weren’t passionate leaders. Their passionate leader was Christopher Columbus. He convinced 89 men to climb aboard three small, hand-made vessels and set sail with the expectation of arriving in the east by sailing to the west. Everyone, but Columbus, believed they would simply sail off the edge of the earth into eternal oblivion. Columbus’ convictions were so strong that he convinced these men and secured the backing of the Spanish royal house. Portugal, France and England had already turned him down, but his passion convinced King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella to back him.
Columbus was a member of a very elite group of leaders; men and women who changed the future. The Wright Brothers, Marie Curie, Leonardo Da Vinci are a few other members of this group. Are you one of the few, or the “crazy ones” as Steve Jobs, another passionate leader, might call them?
We need not have the curiosity of Madame Curie or the genius of Da Vinci to leave a mark. Each of us has the opportunity every day to be energized and passionate about what we do and how we do it. We can’t all be history makers like these folks, but that doesn’t mean we should resign our ideas or energy to the bleak, unimaginative fog of the emotionless masses – which, frankly, many business schools strive to create. We are given an opportunity to contribute and influence. It is our responsibility to use it.
Business schools and MBAs are good for a lot of things, but their indoctrination of the precept that a good business person must present all sides of an issue in a globally unbiased manner (something, I have been known to call their “Passion Sucking Effect”) is not one of them. We are led to believe in business school; and working in some large organizations that our presentations, business plans, pitches, and ideas are supposed to be unbiased, even toned, and present all sides equally. As a result, by the time many folks become managers, business executives or owners they have developed a passionless model for reviewing, presenting and implementing concepts, plans and/or ideas.
I say we drop the zombie act and get back to being passionate about our work, our businesses, our ideas and plans. At the end of the day, why is it that our organizations pay a manager? To get from them a presentation of all angles and options of any given problem? No!
Whether they know it or not, organizations are paying for our opinions, our ideas, our solutions, intelligently developed, then passionately brought forward and driven through implementation.
When was the last time you heard a CEO, a boss, a community leader, a coach, or even one of your co-workers rally people behind an unbiased opinion of a path forward, presenting all potential paths and all the positives and negatives of each path, then recommending that path 2 or 7 could both lead to a satisfactory result? It just doesn’t happen.
Leaders don’t say “There are several possible ways to go that would work and I recommend one of these two ways because they are in a group of several good options with good reward at the least risk …” Instead, they say, “I’m going this way and it’s the best way because… Who wants to take this journey with me. “
I’m not saying we should blindly become passionate about certain ideas. We should do our homework. Use our business education and experience to prove how our concept will check all the right boxes before time and treasure is invested in speculation. Back up our opinion with research, the options possible or available, and be passionate about our preference. If we have done our background work we should then be prepared to defend our preference, passionately.
Am I saying that we should invest all that we are into a single idea, initiative or proposal to the point where if for some reason others decline to move forward with it we are devastated and ruined? Of course not. No one should ever over-invest themselves in one given concept, idea or path. Instead, we should invest ourselves fully in principles, and then be passionate about the ideas and concepts we create around those principles. For instance, one might invest themselves in the principle that improved efficiencies are a core part of our business’ future success. Being invested in that principle might lead to multiple ideas about improving efficiencies, some of which might be implemented and some of which might not. We can be passionate about the concepts, and if they are not implemented then we should certainly feel something (only natural if you truly put passion into it), but we should be able to move on. Our principles are what drive who we are and no one should impact those but ourselves.
So, the next time you’re getting ready to present the department meeting update, the next idea around improved performance, your approach to serving a customer, or the next strategy around new market penetration, remember to do it with passion! If you analyze all the factors and come up with a recommendation, take it forward and give it your all. Leave your heart on the board room table!
Christopher Columbus did it. Steve Jobs did it. The Wright Brothers did it. Thank the Lord they did. We can all do it, too!