Gung-ho and leadership are not the same things. We’ve all worked for a boss that was all about getting it done at all costs, striving to get all the wins at any cost, take the hill without caring about consequences. This behavior is not leadership. Passion is a leadership attribute that cannot be denied, but a true leader knows how to balance her/his passion with compassion. Compassion is the blending of passion and caring for the team.
I love to be passionate about what I am doing, and even more, I love having people on my team who are passionate about their work. But when passion trumps compassion, the leader’s value diminishes. As a young Marine, I observed consistent behavior. Whether they were platoon leaders, company commanders, or generals, the leadership always ate last when in the field. This leadership behavior was not by accident. If you’ve read any of the “Jack Reacher” novels by Lee Child, you know Jack Reacher’s code, “Eat when you can; sleep when you can because you never know when your next opportunity will come.” Leadership always lets their team eat first because they were on the front lines and needed to be rested and nourished to do their work. Not knowing the possible demands that your team might face justifies steps in balancing compassion with passion.
This basic principle of allowing your passionate team to benefit from your compassion is not a new concept. But it does come with another leadership principle; expert work wins battles. When groups are well nourished and rested, they are expected to deliver expertly — compassion and passion when combined with the expectations and performance management results in expert execution.
People perform at the level a leader expects, not at the level they believe they can. Most teams only think they’re capable of 25% of their real abilities until their leader challenges them. A leader’s job is to help each team member learn, grow and stretch beyond what they believed possible every day…
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