How Passion Drives Many of the Worst Leadership Moments
Some of the worst leadership moments are driven by too much passion.
Think of passion as energy, drive, direction, and focus. Is it possible to have too much? In my experience, the answer is yes.
Passion says you care. Too much passion suggests you’re out of touch.
10 signs of too much passion:
- Intimidation. Too much passion makes you speak first, loudest, and longest. You overwhelm people.
- Closed minds. When passion closes your mind, you’re too certain.
- Unwillingness to explore potential problems and challenges. Too much passion makes you minimize problems and overestimate abilities.
- Responding to problems with, “Just get it done.”
- Plugged ears. “I don’t want to hear it.”
- Failure to adapt. Too much passion confuses method with mission. It’s necessary to stay on course. But when situations change, it’s useful to adopt new strategies and methods.
- Diminishing the importance and value of other people’s passions. Never get so excited about what you want others to do that you lose sight of what they want to do.
- Inability to see and understand the strengths and weaknesses of others.
- Circling the same black-hole. Passion-driven frustrations are the result of doing the same ineffective things with more determination.
- Aiming too high in the short-term. Too much passion won’t settle for incremental progress.
12 solutions for too much passion:
- Make room for others. Relax and listen.
- Don’t make up your mind so quickly.
- Stop making everything about you.
- Lower your tone.
- Breathe and smile.
- Ask, “What would new leaders do if they took over?”
- Seek feedback from outsiders.
- Ask, “What should I stop doing?” Or, “What isn’t working?”
- Clarify what you really want to accomplish.
- Keep your short-term definition of success clean and sharp.
- Start something small. Repeat.
- Do something different.
What is the line between too much passion and too little passion?
When have you seen too much passion become a problem for leaders?
Added resource: Video on too much passion for Ken Blanchard: http://bit.ly/2BWO1xL (My first online video ever.)
Oh how I love this!
Too little passion and we let things slide. Good enough becomes the standard and we don’t put forth our best.
Too much passion, as you’ve said, can lead us to bulldoze people. I believe when results are all that matter, we’re missing something. Results through relationships is the best way to be. It may take longer in the short term, but legacy leaders are about it.
Thank you, Dan!
Thanks Josh. I appreciate you mentioning the ‘too little’ side. And your reference to relationships cp passion is useful. If we aren’t careful the more passion we feel the less we care about relationships.
Too much passion denigrates our service, wounds our key relationships and devolves into a power struggle. Passion – properly scaled – engenders love, bonds relationships and nurtures mutual respect in strengthening our capacity to serve. Passion handled improperly becomes manipulative and asserting control of others for self-focused ends. Over-wrought passion becomes partisan and and losses perspective of others.
A prime illustration of the ‘too much’ passion and the antithesis of love is the whole Senate debacle in receiving and confirming Judge Cavanaugh as a Supreme Court nominee.
RE: Kavanaugh debacle – couldn’t agree more!
The one solution that grabbed me: 11: Start something small. Repeat. When I’m too passionate (I usually justify it with the comment, “I’m always thinking ‘big picture’”), my idea generation goes into warp speed.
Once I catch myself (a fortunate habit developed that rarely fails me is regular self-assessment), I focus on the one thing that makes sense in order to get started.
As for repeating, happens in one of two ways. A good first step leads to ‘repeating’ in the sense of finding a (probably) good second step to take. A poor first step leads to ‘repeating’ in the sense of a revised direction and/or effort.
Interestingly, for me at least, “Start something small. Repeat.” is a very good way to discover a new passion!!!
The problem with too much passion is an under-discussed and extremely important topic. Some folks care so much about their project, concept, or goal that the people involved become tools to be used rather than human resources with passions, knowledge, and goals of their own.
Working relationships and team dynamics are sometimes destroyed by this. Something to remember as a leader is that your passion, if uncontrolled, could drain the passion out of the very people you need to help fulfill your goals.
So what you are really saying is take your passion and measure it out calmly, deliberately, smoothly and take some breaths along the way as others need to catch up with you and your passions? I find this as I continue to say easier to do the older I get, but how do you teach the young ins this when they are raised in an impatient world, seeking immediate gratification and results and when they get extremely frustrated when they have to wait?
In a leadership role, I find your first passion has to be your people. When I find myself losing passion for my people, it’s usually because I”m going after something I want or some arbitrary goal that has been set for me. Maintain your passion for and invest in your people and you’ll find both success and satisfaction.
Oooo that’s good!
I agree with Stephanie Angel. There is one main caveat to the conversation regarding Passion. I fully believe that Passion is important, and Dan makes some good observations, but I embrace Passion with Self-Discipline. I am passionate about my chosen career and the energies that go along with being engaged. However, my professional and personal discipline are always present and active.
I know we live in an increasingly narcissistic American culture and I realize where it coming from. However, our maturity and self-discipline must be forever present to avoid the behaviors listed in this blog. I have the mindset of a teacher by listening first and consider others in my response, if I have something to add or impart. The emerging behaviors of today are to be rude and talk over people without giving them a chance to make their statement. It is a growing practice I hope our children are not adopting as a form of almost intelligent exchange in business and in life.
Yes, Stephanie made a good point. Well-modulated passion is very engaging and can energize your team. If you focus solely on achieving your goal at any cost, without keeping your team engaged and involved, you might dissuade them from participating or even feeling that their contributions are important to success.
I think we need to parse the subject of Passion in a slightly different way (although it touches on a couple points from others above especially Stephanie). I think of this as breaking out into 3 areas (which apply to other aspects of leadership other than Passion):
1) having Passion for a thing (project, goal, etc)
2) how that passion is manifested to yourself and your team ( and broader stakeholders)
3) whether these manifestations of Passion have a positive or negative effect on the people around you and ultimately the achievement of your “thing”
in most circumstances, you would probably say that a leader definitely needs to *have* passion for his or her “thing”- this is the “why do I get up everyday and keep going” sort of passion. But, is it possible for a leader to perhaps feel that their thing is their dispassionate “duty”, and be just as active and driven. does “passion” always mean the same thing as “arousal”, or “high emotion”?
also, in most (almost all circumstances) you would say that a leader should manifest their passion in ways that are positive to the people around them: to encourage involvement, dialog, interaction with the “thing” and become engaged and committed and themselves passionate about it.
But can we envisage scenarios where a leader must manifest aspects of their passion that are positive for the achievement of their goal, but less positive for some or all members of their teams? I don’t mean negative in outcome for the team member, but negative in method of motivation. Obvious examples are military leaders in combat situations, first responders in extreme emergency situations etc. But there are obvious less extreme examples.
Someone earlier called this “Passion with Self-Discipline”, which resonates to me as a leader who is conscious and deliberate in the ways in which we manifest our passion about something, to motivate, encourage, nurture and nudge team members into actions that facilitate our goals.
of course, much of this discussion is about leaders as people (with human failings) and how we must enlist our own “passion for leadership” to help us improve and do this better.
Dear Dan – Your blog is consistently smart, clever, and profoundly useful. Thank you from someone who represents your many followers who appreciate great Quality Control. Here’s a thought to get up under your post today. The word, ‘virtue’, means ‘excellence’. Virtue is the habit of choosing the mean between the extremes of excess and deficiency with regard to action or emotion. The practice of virtue forms character. The cardinal virtue regarding Passion is Temperance, the deficiency is Apathy and the excess is Hysteria. Just like Goldilocks, in every moment a leader chooses from one of three categories; ‘too little, too much, and just right’. The wise and virtuous choice is, ‘The Golden Mean’. It’s a virtuous practice, it forms character, and at bottom Leadership is about character.
Excellent comparison … vivid descriptive distinction!
This seemed at if it was written directly at me! Some people have an indescribable fire in the core that can ignite endless energy and tenacity to accomplish a goal. Passion can be a great, and often very beneficial, characteristic for leaders in the workplace. It can serve to encourage others and drive them to accomplish goals they did not realize were attainable. Like so many other things in life, passion needs to be applied to the right aspects of your life and kept in check.
There are many people who spend their entire life trying to find their passion but being overly passionate can create tunnel vision that makes people unaware of the present moment and the world continuing around. In a leadership position, neglecting those people offering support and failing to appreciate them can be extremely detrimental and hard to recover from. Passion for your occupation and to reach a goal must align with your desire to be an effective leader. Self-checking and reading through the twelve solutions listed will help to ensure that the passion for your job does not cast a shadow over the passion for those around you (employees, friends, etc.). Of the ten signs listed, numbers two and three are highlighted in my eyes for this reason. Working to guide and better understand your passions helps to prevent losing control.