I had the great privilege today of interviewing one of my favorite Twitter friends Mr. Felix Nater. Felix is a workplace violence consultant. I won’t here go into what all that this involves but, if you contact Felix, I’m sure he would be more than happy to explain the crucial work he does. What I do want to talk about, however, is a comment that my students made after the conversation with Mr. Nater concluded.
This interview was done in a classroom and my students of Human Resource Management had the opportunity to ask Mr. Nater questions and interact with him via Skype. We learned a lot about the importance of having a workplace violence policy and procedure in place, about trends in this area, about the legal ramifications of corporate responsibility related to violent acts, and about how many companies are putting themselves at risk by not having an established policy or having one and shelving it into oblivion.
But what most impressed my students was Felix’s passion. Their first words after concluding the conversation were: “Now that dude has passion for his work!”
That got me to thinking: where does such passion come from? How important is it in leadership? Can you get it if you don’t already have it? I think these are some great questions.
I don’t know about you, but I would love to be perceived by others as passionate about my work. But I have a deep suspicion that this cannot be fabricated. It must flow from something deep within us. Mere material gain or social recognition just won’t do it. Nor will trying to use passion as a technique to impress others.
Genuine passion is one of those mysterious and wonderful human qualities that is difficult to forge and easy to detect when it is counterfeit. People just sense the phoniness of those who live to please others. You know the type. They do surveys and data-mining to discover what people want to hear and then they say it. They use the fluctuations of voice and intonation to imitate passion, but there is just something about it that seems plastic and forced, almost robotic in its phoniness.
Now, let’s turn to another example. I was reading the Bible the other day when I came across this amazing story about King David in the Old Testament. There are a Gazillion details about this story that I can’t go into here. I encourage you to read the whole story in 1 Samuel chapters 1 to 4.
The setting is that King Saul–the king of Israel who preceded David–died in battle. He was the type that I was talking about–he was not the man he wanted people to think he was. His greatest goal in life was to please people and this drove him to unethical decisions and eventually cost him the kingdom.
Then along comes David around whom half of the tribes of Israel gathered. But the tribes to the north–in their loyalty to the family of Saul–were reluctant to join David. It was a very touchy situation. It could end in two warring nations or one united and powerful nation.
But David is different from Saul. David is a man who speaks and acts from principle rather than from a drive to please others. His passion for justice is so evident that the northern tribes come over and join him, thus creating a united Israel. And one of the passages that expresses this so well is the following:
All the people took notice of [David’s behavior], and it pleased them, as everything that the king did pleased all the people (2 Samuel 3:36, ESV).
Saul worked all his life to acquire the approval of people, but he never did. David, with a few gestures of authentic passion, gains the very approval that he was not even seeking. What paradox! What amazing truth!
Where does passion come from? It comes from caring… caring so deeply and truly that you are moved to invest your life into the object of that care. And it’s about WHAT you care about. If all you care about is yourself, your passion will be short-lived and phony. People will see right through it. Self-aggrandizement, riches, and fame are so fleeting. They can never produce real passion, the kind of passion that causes people to look up in admiration and gratitude.
Where do you think passion comes from? Do you agree that it’s crucial for long-term leadership? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.
Greg Waddell provides consulting services for churches and organizations. Contact Dr. Waddell today at gregwaddell[at]leadstrategic.com to discuss the needs of your organization.