Excitable, Emotional, or Passionate

According to the input from my facebook page, being “unexcitable” isn’t the most admired leadership quality.

John Bell suggests, when excitable equals passionate, we admire Jack Welch, Steve Jobs, and Howard Shultz. All of which are famous or notorious for their passion.

Perhaps it’s a matter of definition and context?

“I think it’s because I was unexcitable,” Jim Moorhead replied when I asked, “Why do you think others looked to you when they were going through crisis?” They started coming to Jim, years ago, when he was in seventh grade.

I suppose my next question sounded like I thought Jim was boring. “What’s the difference between boring and unexcitable?” We both laughed. My question reflects the concerns of many.

Dale Shafter explained the up and down of unexcitable:

When unexcitable equals lack of passion, teams:

  • Become passive.
  • Lack urgency.

If by “unexcitable” you infer the ability to stay collected in crisis:

  • Decisions are sound and methodical.
  • Staff becomes less crisis-oriented.


Passionate leaders persistently drive and consistently focus on objectives higher than and outside themselves.

Emotional leaders are up one day and down the next. They sink inward rather than reaching outward. Think moody. We don’t respect them.

Excitable leaders, in the context of my conversation with Jim Moorhead, get sucked into drama. They lose their heads under pressure. Let’s face it, there’s always pressure.

Always UNexcitable:

The best leaders are passionate but unexcitable and most valued during crisis. “We look for leaders,” Moorhead commented, “Who are unexcitable yet transmit positive energy.”

How to be an unexcitable leader:

  1. Develop systems.
  2. Gather input from teams.
  3. Embrace short, medium, and long term thinking. Rise above day to day thinking.
  4. Focus most on the future.
  5. Create and illuminate positive trajectory, especially during crisis.
  6. Remain flexible.
  7. Apologize.


How do you balance being unexcitable and passionate?


Thanks to Jim Moorhead for a great interview. Jim’s new book, “The Instant Survivor: Right Ways to Respond When Things Go Wrong,” is an enlightening and enjoyable read.