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Communication and passion. … If you are a fan of leadership material, you know, the best-selling leadership books at Barnes & Noble or Amazon, or the 3 weekly leadership articles written for LeadStrategic by a small group of friends, Scott, Greg, and yours truly (humor intended), then you know that two recurring leadership themes are communication skills (ok, I’ll include relationship skills at-large) and passion (or energy).

In layman’s terms, if you can find something about which you’re passionate and can communicate well, you’re almost to the finish line. Yes, other leadership ingredients are required. You need (or should have) good values. You need (or know where to acquire) competence. You need a focus, a goal, an objective. But over and over, the THING I see that prevents leaders (or wannbe leaders) from reaching their full potential is a lack of communication skills and/or a lack of passion (a lack of energy).

As noted in my article last week, Greg, Scott, and I started LeadStrategic 2 years ago (and change). During that time, we’ve each written a weekly article on the topic of leadership. The articles have come rain or shine, or flu or “move around the world.” I hope you’ve enjoyed reading them and found ‘em beneficial, helpful, practical, accessible, down-to-earth. I’ve certainly enjoyed sharing a bit each week with readers around the world who come from a variety of countries, cultures, and organizations. Some of you are stay-at-home parents. Some of you are pastors. Some of you are teachers. Some of you are retired. Some of you are high school or college students. Some of you are executives. Some of you are family. Some of you are retired. Some of you are just staring your “work” life. And some of you … well, who knows! 😉

Once of the things I’ve noticed is that I have certain favorite topics, two of which are communications and passion (or energy). These aren’t the only two leadership topics, obviously! They’re just the two that I go back to over and over again. In fact, my first article was on “energy” (wind). Two years later, I’m writing about the same thing, energy (passion).

In a recent personal conversation, someone accused me of being too passionate, too emotional. They suggested I “cool it” and not show my emotions as much. Now, a couple caveats up front. Clearly, people can get too emotional (ever hear of emotional high-jacking?). Clearly, people can be so up and down (high emotional variability) that they confuse others and make it difficult to be around. In this case, others wait to see what kind of mood you’re in before interacting with you. So, yes, people can be too emotional or too passionate.

But I rarely see this. Yes, in a small percentage of people (best guess, under 5%), emotional instability is an issue. A behavioral gap if you will. Yet in the majority of people (let’s say 95%), when there is a relational or performance gap, it generally comes from apathy, not an abundance of passion. How about you? What do you notice? Does your organization (work, home, church, civic, athletic, charity) suffer more from chronic passion or chronic apathy?

I’ll take energy every day! I’ll take people who love life, who love work, who give it all they have in their relationship, their tasks, and see life as a grand stage. Yes, they may occasionally need to be directed or shaped, but as I’ve noted in previous articles, even a sailboat can tack into the wind (moving into the direction of the wind) but there has to be wind.

Admission, I’m passionate about communication and passion. I love life! I like spicy food. I like adventure. I like a fast pace most of the time. And when I relax and have quite time, reflection time, prayer or Bible study time, or hobby time, I’m passionate about that too. I give it my best. I’m passionate about my faith with Jesus, my family, my work, and my hobbies.

Thinking back on the conversation I had, I realize that I wanted something the other person in the conversation did not. At least they didn’t really want it, not like I did. If I gave up on people, relationships, or goals, I wouldn’t need to be passionate. Nor would you. Yet if you’re going to succeed. If you’re going to make a difference, you need passion. … A quick note, energy and passion are not tied to introversion and extroversion. True, they may express it differently, but please don’t mistake noise and activity for passion. Just as you shouldn’t mistake “quiet” for deep-thinking.

Here are three passion takeaways:

  1. Hard work, sustained over time, and done creatively, requires passion.
  2. A misguided person who is passionate can be coached, directed, shaped into applying their passion to the achievement of valuable goals (organization, personal, and relational).
  3. A person without passion is like wet firewood. It can’t produce heat or light.

The picture of the candle (fire) above, to me, is a symbol of passion. It can light. It can provide heat. It can also burn. The same is true with many powerful forces of nature, including wind and water.

Develop, hone, and harness your passionate. Don’t let others talk you out of being passionate and showing emotion.

As always, the floor is open to your comments, suggestions, thoughts, and feedback.

Dr. is an agent of change and is able to balance the needs of the business and the needs of people. Dr. Gerwig believes and practices the values of performance and delivery of business metrics while simultaneously developing and growing people into leaders. You can contact him at RobertGerwig[at]

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