My blog posts are seeded by the challenges and issues of leaders I encounter in my work. Maybe it's the shorter winter days, but there is definitely an "I lost my passion" flu bug going around. It's turning up in calls and emails coming into Strategies offices, in classes, and in coaching calls. I'm even getting Facebook messages from exasperated leaders and owners seeking hope for a cure. The common theme of this flu bug is simply a loss of passion for leadership and business.
You may be wondering how any leader can lose their passion. The real flu germ is that "change is relentless" factor. That best year you're having is no guarantee that next year will be even better. Leadership is about being perpetually vigilant for potential threats and new opportunities. All that people stuff can really wear you down and sap your passion.
Here are some no-compromise leadership thoughts to both remedy the loss of passion:
- Your passion fuel tank: If you think of passion in terms of a fuel tank, it's easy to understand that you can only go so far until your passion fuel runs out. Passion needs to fed a healthy diet of inspiration, education, dedication and appreciation of self. Too many leaders drain the passion tank to the point where work becomes work. The crud at the bottom of your passion fuel tank is called resentment. You can't lead and inspire others when you've been feeding on resentment and bitterness.
- You're not invincible or perfect: Beating yourself up is the fastest way to drain your passion fuel tank. Most leaders, including myself, are pretty darn good at beating themselves up for decisions that backfired, actions that should not have happened, or just not paying attention to current reality. Success is the goal of all leaders, but the journey to success includes overcoming adversity and challenges. It's called the right of passage or, in simple terms, paying your dues. How you handle adversity is what defines you as a leader. Do you overcome or surrender?
- It's you, not them: You know your passion fuel tank is running dry when you start blaming and seeing those you lead as the problem. The most difficult part of coaching is to get leaders to first own the challenges that their approach to leadership created. Think of taking ownership and letting go of resentment and blame as the key to unlocking the cap to your passion fuel tank. It's amazing how quickly passion returns when leaders work on their own attitudes, perspectives and leadership skills. Stop blaming your staff for performance and behaviors that you enabled. No compromise.
- You dug the hole—you can fill it: It's crazy how fast a company can dig a hole—and it's usually a financial hole of tight cash and excessive debt. Nothing saps passion faster than a financial hole that seems as deep as the Grand Canyon. If there is anything we pound away at Strategies, it is the non-negotiable need to have and work a cash-flow plan in conjunction with accurate and timely financial reports. You can't wish and hope your way out of financial mess. You need a road map to follow and that's exactly what a cash-flow plan is. Knowing where daylight is and how to get there is empowering and builds confidence. It's going to take time…but you'll feel your passion tank filling up.
- Accountability is not a solo act: Too many leaders think their job is to carry the woes of the world on their shoulders. That is not only so wrong, but also the most efficient way to keep the low fuel warning light on your passion tank perpetually on. Leadership is about shared accountability and empowering others to reach their full potential. But sharing accountability is a process built on vision, clarity, systems, critical numbers, information flow and trust. I always say that you cannot truly lead until you give up control. Again, it's a process. If shared accountability is in short supply at your company, give me a call. Reread number 1.
- Business is about finishing strong: It's measured in months, quarters and years. Passion is fueled by achieving projected goals, improving critical numbers and celebrating wins. No-compromise company cultures are dynamic and relentless. "We/us/the company" thinking prevails over the divisive "I/me/mine" thinking. Everyone is responsible. Everyone is pulling and pushing in the same direction. This is what's possible when your passion fuel tank is kept full and is prepared to go the distance.
- One more thought: If you truly can't find your passion, it's time to do a reality check on where you are and what you want your future to look like. The bad news is that many refuse to take action and continue their slide to burn out. The good news is that you are the only one responsible for your future and happiness.