“Without passion man is a mere latent force and possibility, like the flint which awaits the shock of the iron before it can fire forth its spark.” — Henry Amiel
Strong leaders are very good at aligning individual interests, strengths, and goals with the work that needs to be done. To paraphrase Joseph Campbell’s famous dictum, they help people follow their bliss. Peter Drucker once observed, “Whenever anything is being accomplished, it is being done, I have learned, by a monomaniac with a mission.”
Strong leaders harness the passion of the monomaniacs on their team to bring about change. Even if this passion is against the leader’s change, it is still valuable since a leader knows that resistance to change is far better than apathy. The stronger the resistance, the stronger the energy that’s available. So leaders dig deeper to understand the source of the resistance and either rethink the change based on the wisdom they uncover, or they harness and realign the energy of that resistance.
When a team member approaches the leader with an improvement suggestion (and this happens to leaders more frequently than to conventional managers), the leader will first probe to see how deep his or her passion might be for the change. If it’s reasonably strong and the idea merits testing, the leader will often give the team member responsibility for trying out or implementing the change. This creates higher ownership and nurtures a team of people who get directly and actively involved in making improvements. This high-involvement leadership sharply contrasts with the traditional approach of frontline people making suggestions for management or other departments to implement — and then grumbling in the hallways that nobody ever acts on their suggestions.
Strong leaders engage people’s hearts. They build ever-deeper passion and commitment. The key leadership word is “care.” When we care about our work, we will often be harder on ourselves than anyone else would dare to be. When we really care about the customers we serve, we’ll go out of our way to ensure that each “moment of truth” (contact with customers) is as positive as we can make it. When we care about making our organization successful, we’ll go above and beyond our job to do whatever it takes to be part of a winning team. When we care about our products or services, we’ll do whatever it takes to continue feeling proud of what we do.
Leaders care deeply about the people in their organization. Team members feel their care and reciprocate it.
“Of all the decisions a manager makes, none is as important as the decisions about people because they determine the performance capacity of the organization…the goal is to make productive the specific strengths and knowledge of each individual.” — Peter Drucker
An old bit of Texas wisdom teaches us that “you can put your boots in the oven, but that don’t make them biscuits.” Leaders know that nothing kills passion and commitment in their organization more than bad hiring and promotion decisions. That’s why leaders spend a huge amount of time assessing new people they are hiring and everyone they’re considering promoting.
The average manager will interview someone once or twice before making a hiring decision. Strong leaders will put candidates through four to six personal, peer, and team interviews. A study by the Center for Creative Leadership found that when one individual made hiring decisions for management positions, the newly hired manager was judged to be successful just 35 percent of the time. When a hiring team of four or five made the decision, success rose to 55 percent. But when the small group included both customers and subordinates, success rates soared to 70 percent.