Updated: Feb 17
Passion – without it leadership and success can be elusive if not impossible, yet an excess of it can limit leadership effectiveness and possibly your success. Like so many traits, passion has its assets and liabilities that require balance. Passion enables leaders to enlist others around a vision, it provides great clarity and direction, enables one to persuade and persevere, it underpins a commitment to the accomplishment of vision.
That same passion; however, can isolate leaders and potentially silence those they hope to inspire and engage. When passion spills over, leaders may become overly confident in their opinions, overlook mistakes or dismiss feedback, possibly intimidating those whose feedback or insights are necessary for the accomplishment of tasks associated with the vision. When leaders become overly assertive or confident in the path associated with accomplishing the vision, their confidence may stifle the engagement of others necessary to the realization of the vision. Others may not fully engage, be overwhelmed, remaining quiet and/or frustrated that their ideas or voice seems to go unheard. Eventually distancing themselves, choosing not to have ideas or perspectives dismissed or go unheard.
So how does one strike that balance of passionate pursuit of vision while enlisting the full support and engagement of stakeholder’s? First, recognize that if you’re truly passionate about the vision you have, then it’s the accomplishment of that vision that should be of greatest importance. Accomplishment will require engagement of others around the tasks necessary to the vision. Therefore, it’s actually the engagement of others that should be the first priority. If we want to ensure that we have the best information, strategy, etc. then we need to ensure that employees are fully engaged to provide and participate in its pursuit. Engagement relies on, among other things, participation and a sense of value that comes from others listening and giving consideration to our ideas and perceptions. Therefore one of your greatest tools in facilitating the realization of the vision is simply to listen to the feedback and input provided by the members of your team. Your ability to listen well will engage, empower and show that you value your stakeholders. Sounds simple right?
The difficulty lies in our confidence, our sense of assuredness about the direction and how best to get there. Often leaders will ask, yet don’t really listen. Passion will often assert, believing that others have been convinced and see the wisdom in it. Yet the reality is, if you’re telling, you don’t know what they believe or have taken ownership of – you can’t know that if you’re speaking. Listening requires that we first check ourselves to determine if we’re really open to alternative views, then we must work to 1) create a safe environment for the exchange of ideas (establishing trust) 2) be as fully present as possible (no distractions) 3) resist prejudging based upon early dialogue 4) ask meaningful questions to encourage clarity and further exploration and finally share your understanding of what you’ve heard. By listening, you’ll communicate value and respect while gaining commitment and insights you will otherwise miss.
I believe it was Covey who stated “Seek first understanding, only then to be understood”. Keep your passion, change your strategy.