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Timothy F. Bednarz

Quality Insider

Great Leaders Absolutely Love What They Do

Their passion is contagious, and it inspires their companies to grow

Published: Thursday, December 6, 2012 - 15:05

Great leaders are passionate. They possess an absolute love for what they do. In an April 2010 interview with Stephen Fry of Time magazine, Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, observed, “I don’t think of my life as a career... I do stuff. I respond to stuff. That’s not a career—it’s a life!”

Starbucks’ CEO, Howard Schultz, concurred when he said, “When you love something, when you care so much, when you feel the responsibility... you find another gear.”

James Duke, a tobacco and electric power industrialist, enthusiastically expressed his passion. As quoted in The Change Makers, by Maury Klein (Holt Paperbacks, 2004), Duke said: “I hated to close my desk at night and was eager to get back to it early next morning. I needed no vacation or time off. No fellow does who is really interested in his work.”

Ray Kroc, founder of McDonald’s, couldn’t say enough about his 15-cent hamburgers. Sam Walton, founder of Walmart, was equally passionate about the value that Walmart offered to the average person. Both were evangelists for their companies.

Another passionate evangelist was James Casey, co-founder of United Parcel Service. Anyone who knew him understood that it just took the right topic to get him excited—and that topic was packages. He loved everything about them: the care that went into their wrapping, the sense of mystery about their contents, the delight in opening them.

A 1947 profile in The New Yorker found Casey observing a department store’s package-wrapping station—waxing enthusiastic and then some—on the proceedings: “Deft fingers! Deft fingers wrapping thousands of bundles. Neatly tied! Neatly addressed! Stuffed with soft tissue paper! What a treat! Ah, packages!”

Why is passion so important and why does it contribute so much to one’s success? “Passion is about our emotional energy and a love for what we do,” says George Ambler. “Without passion it becomes difficult to fight back in the face of obstacles and difficulties. People with passion find a way to get things done and to make things happen, in spite of the obstacles and challenges that get in the way.”

Herb Kelleher, co-founder and former CEO of Southwest Airlines, stressed the importance of passion. “When we talk to other people about Southwest Airlines, I always tell them that it’s got to come from the heart, not from the head,” he says in The Art of Business, by Raymond T. Yeh and Stephanie H. Yeh (Zero Time Publishing, 2004). “It has to be spontaneous; it has to be sincere; it has to be emotional. I said, ‘Nobody will believe it if they think it’s just another program that was conjured up for six months’ time and then you’re going to drop it.’

“The power of it in creating trust is that people have to see that you really radiate, that it’s a passion with you, and you’re not saying these things because you think they are clever or a way to produce more productivity or produce greater profits, but because you really want things to go well for them, individually.”

Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com, made the following observation about how passion works, and why it motivates so well: “One of the huge mistakes people make is that they try to force an interest on themselves,” he says. “If you’re really interested in software and computer science, you should focus on that. But if you’re really interested in medicine, and you decide you’re going to become an Internet entrepreneur because it looks like everybody else is doing well, then that’s probably not going to work.

“You don’t choose your passions; your passions choose you,” adds Bezos. “One of the reasons you saw so many companies that were formed in 1998 or 1999 fail is that they were chasing the wave. And that usually doesn’t work. Find that area that you are interested in and passionate about—and wait for the wave to find you.”


About The Author

Timothy F. Bednarz’s picture

Timothy F. Bednarz

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D., is an accomplished author, researcher, consultant, entrepreneur, and innovator. He has founded three successful companies and has more than 26 years consulting experience in business development. As a critical thinker and transformational agent of change, he has the ability to view complex issues, identifying specific causes to develop meaningful solutions in simple terms. He has authored more than 125 books as well as a wide variety of high quality learning content. His latest book is Great! What Makes Leaders Great (Majorium Business Press, 2012). He is the author of more than 85 books in the Pinpoint Skill Development Training Series.