Leadership is not about a title or a designation. It’s about impact, influence and inspiration. Impact involves getting results, influence is about spreading the passion you have for your work, and you have to inspire team-mates and customers. Robin S. Sharma
“I have an uprising on my hands,” said the voice on the other end of the phone. “We are an inner city neighborhood church but some board members are pressuring us to move the congregation to the suburbs. We can’t seem to get through a board meeting with this coming up. What can I do?”
“The problem,” I explained, “is that they’ve lost passion and purpose. They’ve forgotten why your organization exists and what it has set out to become and accomplish. Here’s what to do. Call a board meeting but keep the church doors locked. Don’t let anyone into the building when they arrive. Instead, put them all into a vehicle then drive them around your neighborhood. Point out the crack houses, the homeless people, the hookers, the blight and decay and remind them why your church exists, that it does not exist so that they can have a comfortable and convenient place to gather. That it exists to make a difference in your city.”
I am pleased to report that the strategy worked.
It is a challenge facing just about every leader, usually more than once. Businesses and organizations evolve over time. Passion and purpose seem to give way to a preference for convenience and comfort. The questions to be asked and answered are what happens and what can we do about it?
The longer a company or organization exists the more likely it is to forget and neglect why it started and what it set out to do. It seems almost inevitable which is why an effective leader is skilled and diligent about ways to help everyone remember why they are there.
The longer a company or organization exists the more likely it is to become self-centered and self-focused. I am not implying anything about the character of anyone or everyone involved. I am, however, all too aware of human nature. Even the most outward-focused start-ups can evolve into inward-looking companies or organizations. The result is always stagnation and ultimate obsolescence.
The sooner and the more often you can remember and remind the leaders around you why your company or organization exists, the more likely they are to buy into the vision. This is true at every stage of an organization’s evolution. This is why vision statements must not limit the thinking to what an organization does but in how it impacts a constituency. We don’t produce a product or a service, we produce a result.
The more eloquently and graphically you can define and describe the targets you have set and the progress you are making towards them the more readily passion and purpose will remain alive. Passion, purpose, and motivation remain vibrant when the exigencies of life and business are met and conquered. Nothing succeeds like success and reminders of it must come often. Just last week I produced a short PowerPoint presentation detailing the significant progress made by a non-profit in the area. The numbers are up, way up, and everyone needs to know it…and celebrate it. Even if progress is small, progress is progress.
It is easier to keep passion alive than it is to rekindle it. It is not easy to build a fire in burnt wood. Even charcoal briquettes, the little black blocks used in barbeque grills everywhere are ignited much easier when an outside source of heat and auxiliary fuel is used. What’s that mean? It means that to light briquettes you need starter fluid and a match. What’s that imply for your company? You’re the match and you’ll need to come up with some sort of starter fluid. More about this later.
If you as leader do not have passion of the vision that translates into a sense of purpose and destiny, it is probably time for you to move on. I mean it. If you have lost passion and a sense of purpose for your organization…or never had it to begin with… then it’s time to find another position. If the fire does not burn within you, you become a consumer of energy not a producer. The same is true of anyone else working in the company. The most productive and responsible associates are those who are enthused about the company and what it does.
Justin Rosenstein wrote that “Life is short, youth is finite, and opportunities endless. Have you found the intersection of your passion and the potential for world-shaping positive impact? If you don’t have a great idea of your own, there are plenty of great teams that need you – unknown startups and established teams in giant companies alike.”
What do you have to do to restore passion and purpose for your company, your organization, your department, your team, or yourself?