Expert advice on Business Leadership and tips on becoming a more effective Leader.

The Passionate Leader By Lee J. Colan

A common characteristic of high-achieving leaders is a deep sense of passion. Passion is the glue that helps teams stick to their plans through adversity and over the long haul. There are three success factors for leaders to capitalize on the power of passion.

Paint the Picture…

Focus and competence engage the minds of your employees. To engage their hearts and ignite their passion, we must meet one of their most basic psychological needs – to contribute to something bigger than a job, to find meaning in their work.

Picture this scenario: Three workers were crushing rocks side by side on a construction job. When they were asked, “What is your job?” the first worker answered, “My job is to do what I am told for eight hours a day so I can get a check.” The second workers replied, “My job is to crush rocks.” The third worker said, “My job is to build a cathedral.”

Which of these three workers do you think would be the most engaged, most productive and go the extra mile? No doubt the third one, who understood his job, was far greater than just crushing rocks. He understood he was contributing to a purpose greater than his own efforts.

People will naturally become more passionate about their work when they clearly see the big picture. To paint the picture for your team, answer the four questions employees commonly ask (and they are asking these questions – whether you hear them or not):

1. Where are we going? (Strategy)
2. What are we doing to get there? (Plans)
3. How can I contribute? (Roles)
4. What is in it for me? (Rewards)

Painting the picture might seem like a soft, intangible process; but it yields hard, tangible results.

Value Your Values…

Even more important than what your team does is how your team does it – in other words, your team’s values. Values help build a common focus and set of norms. Team values might include collaboration, innovation, zero defects or a customer-first commitment.

The word “communication” comes from the Latin root meaning “community.” Your efforts to communicate team values play a key role in creating a unique community of employees who share a common focus and passion.

Communicating values should be a natural outgrowth of your leadership passion. It is best to simply describe the behaviors that demonstrate each value. This helps employees understand the intended spirit of the values and minimizes misinterpretations. For instance, a team value of “the customer is always right” can be interpreted many ways, so providing some examples would help define the acceptable responses to that statement.

If you do not value your team’s values, no one else will. Take the time to communicate your team’s values, allow your employees to find their own passion about them, and most importantly, live them!

Give what you want…

Most employees do not quit their jobs because of compensation or something “the company” did. People quit people, not companies. And it often comes down to a simple matter of appreciation.

Leaders who build passionate teams really appreciate their people, not just their employees. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. It is easy to appreciate the top performers who bail you out of tight spots. However, it is more challenging, but more meaningful, to appreciate everyone on your team regardless of their relative contributions.

Charles Plumb was a U.S. Navy pilot in Vietnam. After 75 combat missions, his plane was shot down; he ejected and parachuted into enemy hands. He was captured and spent six years in a Vietnamese prison. He survived the ordeal and now lectures on the lessons learned from that experience.

One day, Plumb and his wife were sitting in a restaurant when a man came up and said, “You’re Plumb! You flew jet fighters in Vietnam from the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk. You were shot down!”

“How in the world did you know that?” asked Plumb.

“I packed your parachute,” the man replied. Plumb gasped in surprise and gratitude. The man pumped his hand and said, “I guess it worked!”

Plumb assured him, “It sure did. If that chute hadn’t worked, I wouldn’t be here today.”

Plumb couldn’t sleep that night, thinking about the man. He thought of the many hours the sailor had spent on a long wooden table in the bowels of the ship – carefully folding the silks of each chute, holding in his hands someone’s fate.

Plumb later said, “I kept wondering what he might have looked like in a Navy uniform – white hat, bib in the back, bell-bottom trousers. I wondered how many times I might have seen him and not even said, ‘Good morning, how are you?’ because, you see, I was a fighter pilot and he was just a sailor.”

So ask yourself, “Who is packing my parachute?” Remember, at the end of the day, your success is based more on what your people do than what you do. We all have someone who provides what we need to make us more productive. Appreciate those people.

Leading with passion will enhance your team’s discretionary effort – extra time and energy they willingly give to meet your team’s goals. Give want you want and you will get what you need.

Passionate leaders foster passionate teams, and passionate teams create powerful results!

(This article is an excerpt from the best selling book Sticking to It: The Art of Adherence).

(c) Lee J. Colan – all rights reserved
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Lee J. Colan is a high-energy executive advisor, author and speaker. He is passionate about delivering simple tools that leaders can put to work right away. Learn more at www.theLgroup.com.

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