Proving Passion for the Purpose

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Several weeks ago I was having coffee with a friend who was trying to think through how to best lead a direct report on his leadership team. As he shared his situation and asked if I had any experience that might be helpful to him, I was reminded of a lesson I have learned the hard way. This lesson revolves around one word: passion. So before we dove into any of the details, I asked my friend if his team member demonstrated a passion for the mission of his organization.

You know what it is like to work with someone who has no passion for the shared cause. Whether it is a paid staff position or an unpaid volunteer role, passion is the number one determiner of where someone should fall in the organizational structure. The reason is simple. You don’t have to motivate someone who is passionate for the mission, because passion itself is the greatest motivator. The inverse is true as well. If someone is not passionate about the mission, there is very little you can do to motivate him or her. No amount of money or recognition will cause someone to give of himself to a mission like passion will.

When I consider the shared mission of the community I have the honor of leading, the level of leadership is determined by the level of passion for inviting people into the story of Jesus. If someone is not passionate about inviting people into the story of Jesus, then he or she will always feel disconnected. One of the greatest mistakes I can make (and have made) is to elevate someone to a position of leadership who does not possess a strong passion for this specific mission.

What’s the other option?

People today feel less and less obligated to do anything and who wants someone to do something out of obligation? Do you want your wife to love you because she feels obligated? Do you want your children to tell you about their day because they feel obligated? Of course not. Obligation makes us nauseous.

Instead, you want your wife to express her love for you, because she is passionate about your relationship. You want your children to come to you for advice, because they have no doubt that you are passionate about their success and wellbeing.

As you are consider your own teammates and direct reports, are they serving the mission of the organization out of a passion for the mission or are they doing the bare minimum to keep a job? Sometimes, if passion is not the motivator, entitlement is what keeps them coming back. After all, their great, great grandfather founded this organization. If obligation makes us nauseous, entitlement makes us crazy.

Almost everyone thinks that he or she is passionate about the mission, but it’s up to the leader to judge passion. Obligation, entitlement, and general zealousness can be mistaken for passion. I’ve fallen for this too many times. Sometimes I read someones general zealousness as passion for a specific mission, but it turns out that he or she was not concerned with the mission at all. Instead he had an axe to grind or she was using her role as therapy to deal with her own baggage so every idea was out of left field, rather than emerging from the mission and values. Personal agendas can be masked as passion for the mission for a season.

Just as it motivates people to excel beyond doing only the bare minimum, passion will also get you through the difficult slumps. The slumps test the depth of your passion for the mission. When the preferred future is not becoming current reality, are you going to give up on your dream? Passion will remind you of the original vision and motivate you to reposition in order to move forward.

Now it’s time for some self-reflection.

If you are not passionate about the mission of your organization, do you know why? What could lead you to being more passionate? If, after some serious introspection, you know that you will never be passionate about the mission, then I suggest you find a mission about which you can be and give yourself fully to that organization! You have too much to offer and you won’t regret finding the best role to offer all of it.

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