People will not follow an unenthusiastic leader. They will follow someone who has a vision and is passionate about it. Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela showed great passion for what they believed – it was what made them outstanding leaders.
The sales training expert Robin Fielder says, “Never, ever forget that people are more persuaded by your convictions than by your arguments.”
Jim Collins puts it like this; the good to great companies did not say, “Okay folks, let’s get passionate about what we do.” Sensibly, they went about it the other way round entirely: We should only do those things that we can get passionate about. Kimberley-Clark executives made the decision to divest other businesses and focus on paper-based consumer products in large part because they could get more passionate about them.
Here is an exercise that we sometimes conduct on leadership courses. Think for a moment about a key component of your vision for what you want to achieve for the business this year. Choose a single important goal that you as a leader want to accomplish. Now imagine that you expressed that goal to your people in a dull, boring, unenthusiastic way. What would happen? Now consider how you could communicate the goal again, but this time with passion, with energy, with commitment, with enthusiasm. If you were receiving those two kinds of messages how would you react? Which message would inspire you to change your behavior, to do something extraordinary, to go the extra mile?
Focus on the things that you want to change, the most important challenges you face and be passionate about overcoming them. Your energy and drive will translate itself into direction and inspiration for your people.
It is no good filling your bus with contented, complacent passengers. You want evangelists, passionate supporters; people who believe that reaching the destination is really worthwhile; people who are on a mission to make the world a better place. This drive and enthusiasm starts with the leader. If you want to inspire people to innovate, to change the way they do things and to achieve extraordinary results then you have to be passionate about what you believe in and you have to communicate that passion every time you speak.
By Paul Sloane
Paul Sloane is the author of The Leader’s Guide to Lateral Thinking Skills and The Innovative Leader. He writes, talks and runs workshops on lateral thinking, creativity and the leadership of innovation.