Leaders to Leader

Lessons from the Great American Leaders & How They Apply Now

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You Don’t Choose Your Passions, Your Passions Choose You

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Jeff Bezos - Amazon.com

Jeff Bezos – Amazon.com

Great leaders are passionate. They possess an absolute love for what they do. Steve Jobs (Apple Computer) 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!” [1] Howard Schultz (Starbucks) concurred when he said: When you love something, when you care so much, when you feel the responsibility… you find another gear.”

James Duke (American Tobacco Company) enthusiastically expressed his passion, when he noted, “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.” [2]

Ray Kroc (McDonald’s) couldn’t say enough about his fifteen-cent hamburgers, and Sam Walton (Wal-Mart) was equally passionate about the value that Wal-Mart offered to the average person. Both were evangelists for their companies.

Another passionate evangelist was James Casey (United Parcel Service), as 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 New Yorker profile found him observing a department store’s package-wrapping station and 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!’ ” [3]

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. 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.” [4]

Herb Kelleher (Southwest Airlines) stressed the importance of passion when he stated, “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. 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.” [5]

Jeff Bezos (Amazon) made the following observation about how passion works, and why it motivates so well. “You don’t choose your passions, your passions choose you… One of the huge mistakes people make is that they try to force an interest on themselves. 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. 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.” [6]

[1]  Fry Stephen, The iPad Launch: Can Steve Jobs Do It Again? (Time Magazine, April 1, 2010)

[2]  Klein Maury, The Change Makers (Henry Holt and Company, LLC, New York, NY 2003) p. 99-100

[3]  Lukas Paul, Overfelt Maggie, UPS United Parcel Service James Casey Transformed a Tiny Messenger Service into the World’s Largest Shipper By Getting All Wrapped Up in the Details of Package Delivery (Fortune Small Business, April 1, 2003)

[4]  Ambler George, Steve Jobs and His Leadership (The Practice of Leadership, March 30, 2008)

[5]  Yeh Raymond T. with Yeh Stephanie H., The Art of Business: In the Footsteps of Giants (published October 1, 2004)

[6]  Walker Rob, Jeff Bezos Amazon.com – America’s 25 Most Fascinating Entrepreneurs (Inc. Magazine, April 1, 2004)

Excerpt: Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011)

Read a Free Chapter

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

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Have You Earned Permission to Lead?

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legitimacyprincipleschart

The fundamental essence of leadership is legitimacy, whose substance is based upon authority and validity. While authority is conferred, validity is earned through the development of credibility, trust and a balance of emotional standing and connections, with all key constituencies.

Legitimacy is a cornerstone of effective leadership. All of the great leaders have it. However, legitimacy is seldom discussed, if even mentioned in most leadership books. This leads to confusion as to what defines legitimacy. Its definition needs to be clarified and placed within the proper context.

Legitimacy is derived from two separate sources that give leaders permission to lead. The first source is authority or the power granted to leaders by either election, or appointment to an office. In the business setting, this is conferred by the stockholders through the board of directors.

The second source is validity. Validity is not conferred, nor is it automatically achieved once a leader is appointed to a position. It is earned and is a contributing factor to the authority granted to a leader, typically over the span of his or her career. This defines a leader as genuine and authentic in the eyes of all key constituencies.

Both sources of legitimacy compliment each other, but validity provides an enduring, yet fragile acquiescence of all the constituencies that gives a leader the tacit permission to lead. It is built upon three critical factors: trust, credibility and emotional balance. These are the hallmarks of great leaders. Without the presence of these critical factors, the leader’s validity collapses. Once a leader loses his or her validity, the authority to lead is effectively undermined.

“Leadership is a privilege. Those who receive the mantle must also know they can expect an accounting of their stewardships. It is not uncommon for people to forego higher salaries to join an organization with strong, ethical leadership. Most individuals desire leadership they can admire and respect. They want to be in sync with that brand of leader, and will often parallel their own lives after that person…” [1]

[1] Huntsman,Jon M. Winners Never Cheat Even in Difficult Times (Wharton School Publishing, Upper Saddle River, NJ, 2009) p 73

Excerpt: Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011)

Read a Free Chapter

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

//

Leaders Possess an Absolute Love for What They Do

with 4 comments

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos Photo by David McNew/Getty Images

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos
Photo by David McNew/Getty Images

Great leaders are passionate. They possess an absolute love for what they do. Steve Jobs (Apple Computer) 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!” [1]

Howard Schultz (Starbucks) concurred when he said: When you love something, when you care so much, when you feel the responsibility… you find another gear.”

James Duke (American Tobacco Company) enthusiastically expressed his passion, when he noted, “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.” [2]

Ray Kroc (McDonald’s) couldn’t say enough about his fifteen-cent hamburgers, and Sam Walton (Wal-Mart) was equally passionate about the value that Wal-Mart offered to the average person. Both were evangelists for their companies.

Another passionate evangelist was James Casey (United Parcel Service), as 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 New Yorker profile found him observing a department store’s package-wrapping station and 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!’ ” [3]

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. 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.” [4]

Herb Kelleher (Southwest Airlines) stressed the importance of passion when he stated, “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. 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.” [5]

Jeff Bezos (Amazon) made the following observation about how passion works, and why it motivates so well. “You don’t choose your passions, your passions choose you… One of the huge mistakes people make is that they try to force an interest on themselves.

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. 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.” [6]

Related:

  1. How Well Do You Set the Tone?
  2. Leaders Possess a Deeply Embedded Sense of Purpose
  3. Your Personal Attitudes Shape Your Environment

References:

  1. Fry Stephen, The iPad Launch: Can Steve Jobs Do It Again? (Time Magazine, April 1, 2010)
  2. Klein Maury, The Change Makers (Henry Holt and Company, LLC, New York, NY 2003) p. 99-100
  3. Lukas Paul, Overfelt Maggie, UPS United Parcel Service James Casey Transformed a Tiny Messenger Service into the World’s Largest Shipper By Getting All Wrapped Up in the Details of Package Delivery (Fortune Small Business, April 1, 2003)
  4. Ambler George, Steve Jobs and His Leadership (The Practice of Leadership, March 30, 2008)
  5. Yeh Raymond T. with Yeh Stephanie H., The Art of Business: In the Footsteps of Giants (published October 1, 2004)
  6. Walker Rob, Jeff Bezos Amazon.com – America’s 25 Most Fascinating Entrepreneurs (Inc. Magazine, April 1, 2004)

Excerpt: Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) Read a Free Chapter

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Written by Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D.

December 4, 2012 at 9:31 am

An Accurate Predictor of Leadership Performance

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The Legitimacy Principles enumerate the linkages of leaders’ legitimacy, credibility, trust and a balance of emotional standing and bonds with all key constituencies. The synergetic relationship between these key factors of success is the foundation of effective leadership and provides insight into a new definition of it.

The fundamental essence of leadership is legitimacy, whose substance is based upon authority and validity. While authority is conferred, validity is earned through the development of credibility, trust and a balance of emotional standing and connections with all key constituencies.

The presence of the Legitimacy Principles endow leaders with the authority to lead, manage, execute, empower, effectively communicate, sell their vision, generate a passion for success, and overcome adversity. Their absence results in ultimate failure as an effective leader.

– The Legitimacy Principles

The use and application of the Legitimacy Principles are an influential standard of leadership performance. A close examination of the key components comprising the Principles reveals that it incorporates virtually every aspect of effective leadership and management required to be successful in leading a corporation, especially in the dynamic environment of the 21st Century.

Whether utilized by individuals who desire to evaluate their own performance, or companies who wish to evaluate the progress and effectiveness of their individual leaders, the Principles will reveal gaps in performance and weaknesses that need to be addressed.

Boards of directors and investors can apply it to assess the performance of senior management to determine if their strategies are effective in achieving specific goals and objectives. Most strategies manifest the worldview of the leaders who create them.

This is evidenced in case after case, where the great leaders who met the criteria of the Legitimacy Principles generated impressive performance and financial results, such as Herb Kelleher (Southwest Airlines), Kemmons Wilson (Holiday Inn), Arthur Blank (Home Depot), and Andrew Carnegie (Carnegie Steel), just to cite a few.

It was not unusual to see corporate performance diminish after these individuals left their companies and were replaced by those who did not completely meet the criteria of the Legitimacy Principles.

Jim Collins documented his research on exceptional company performance in Good to Great (Harper Business, New York, NY, 2001). Included in my research are also some leaders of the companies he evaluated. In his subsequent book, How the Mighty Fall (Harper Collins, New York, NY 2009) he attempted to explain why some of the original companies he studied no longer excelled.

In each case the key leadership changed, a factor Collins alludes to, but does not conclusively link to reductions in performance. In correlating my research with his I discovered that those placed in new leadership positions no longer appeared to meet the criteria of the Legitimacy Principles.

Consequently their company’s performance faltered. Collins bases his research upon the analysis of financial data, while mine focuses upon specific leadership dimensions. The fact that in selected examples we both arrive at the same conclusions validates the findings of my research even though we approached the problem from two distinct perspectives.

If the Legitimacy Principles disclose a leadership imbalance in senior management, most certainly it will be reflected in their thinking and plans. It will be a reliable predictor for future performance.

Once the concepts behind the Legitimacy Principles are understood, these can be easily applied to evaluate leaders in all walks of life, including politicians seeking election.

It may require changing the constituencies where emotional bonds are formed to suit the position of the leader. Obviously, politicians have a different set of constituencies than would a corporate leader. With that said, all of the criteria still remains applicable. Its utilization will reveal the focus and impetus of the leader being analyzed.

For the individual who doesn’t think the practices of past leaders don’t have any relevance today, the identification of the Legitimacy Principles and their successful application by great leaders spanning 235 years substantiates their validity.

Circumstances may have changed, but the great leaders of years past faced similar problems and obstacles as leaders do today. They needed to deal with rapid change and globalization, albeit in a slower form, but the challenges they faced were no less formidable, and they prevailed. What we can learn from them can definitely help overcome our current leadership crisis.

For more information on this topic and to read a free chapter, refer to Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It by Timothy F. Bednarz (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011).

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Legitimacy: The Sole Basis of Leadership

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My research on the leadership qualities and characteristics of famous American leaders to determine what makes leaders great, I designated a pattern that defined the great leaders as The Legitimacy Principles. These were presented in a previous article: For the purpose of clarification, the definition of The Legitimacy Principles need to be restated:

The Legitimacy Principles enumerate the linkages of leaders’ legitimacy, credibility, trust and a balance of emotional standing and bonds with all key constituencies.

The synergetic relationship between these key factors of success is the foundation of effective leadership and provides insight into a new definition of it.

The fundamental essence of leadership is legitimacy, whose substance is based upon authority and validity. While authority is conferred, validity is earned through the development of credibility, trust and a balance of emotional standing and connections with all key constituencies.

The presence of the Legitimacy Principles endow leaders with the authority to lead, manage, execute, empower, effectively communicate, sell their vision, generate a passion for success, and overcome adversity. Their absence results in ultimate failure as an effective leader.

Legitimacy is the cornerstone of effective leadership. Jon Huntsman, Sr wrote in his book, Winners Never Cheat Even in Difficult Times:

“Effective, respected leadership is maintained through mutual agreement. Leadership demanded is leadership denied. Leadership is not meant to be dominion over others. Rather, it is the composite of characteristics that earns respect, results, and a continued following.”

The great leaders possess this critical leadership trait. However, legitimacy is seldom discussed, if even mentioned in most leadership books. The absence of a definitive definition leads to confusion as to what defines legitimacy. Its definition needs to be clarified and placed within a proper context.

It is assumed that leaders automatically possess legitimacy. My research demonstrates that this is a fallacy. It shows that legitimacy is derived from two separate sources that grant leaders permission to lead.

Related: Have You Earned Permission to Lead?

The first source is authority or the power granted to leaders by either election, or appointment to an office. In the business setting, this is conferred by the stockholders through the board of directors. Rudolph Giuliani observed:

“A leader is chosen because whoever puts him there trusts his judgment, character and intelligence… It’s a leader’s duty to act on those attributes.”

The second source is validity. Validity is not conferred, nor is it automatically achieved once one is appointed. It is earned and is a contributing factor to the authority granted to a leader, typically over the span of his or her career. This defines a leader as genuine and authentic in the eyes of all key constituencies.

Related: Emotional Bonds are a Reflection of a Leader’s Effectiveness

Both sources of legitimacy compliment each other, but validity provides an enduring, yet fragile acquiescence of all the constituencies that gives a leader the tacit permission to lead. It is built upon three critical factors: trust, credibility and emotional balance.

My research demonstrates that these are the hallmarks of great leaders. Without the presence of these three critical factors, the leader’s validity collapses. Once a leader loses his or her validity, the authority to lead is significantly undermined.

Huntsman stated:

“Leadership is a privilege. Those who receive the mantle must also know they can expect an accounting of their stewardships. It is not uncommon for people to forego higher salaries to join an organization with strong, ethical leadership. Most individuals desire leadership they can admire and respect. They want to be in sync with that brand of leader, and will often parallel their own lives after that person…”

Related: Your Commitment to Others Defines You as a Leader

For more information on this topic and to read a free chapter, refer to Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It by Timothy F. Bednarz (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011).

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Emotional Bonds are a Reflection of a Leader’s Effectiveness

with 15 comments

James Burke – Johnson & Johnson

The research conducted for Great! What Makes Leaders Great revealed that great leaders created emotional balance. This is the development of emotional bonds and standing individual key constituencies. It is important because it reflects leaders’ attention and performance with each group.

It is an outcome of leaders’ actions and performance, and mirrors the overall health and sustainability of the organization. An imbalance pinpoints potential problems and issues that can damage an organization in the future.

While emotional bonds are a reflection of a leader’s effectiveness, they also are the underpinnings of credibility, trust, validity and legitimacy. This is a cyclical relationship since these characteristics must be firmly established before emotional bonds and standing can be formed. Yet, a leader’s emotional standing with key constituencies is essential to foster credibility, trust, validity and legitimacy.

A positive outcome of this relationship is that strong emotional bonds ultimately pay big dividends in the form of loyalty. This is an additional factor, which strengthens a leader’s validity and legitimacy. Research showed that during periods of difficulty, this often meant the difference between success and failure.

Related: Have You Earned Permission to Lead?

A notable example is Fred Smith when FedEx experienced a monumental problem because of a UPS strike. Consequently, FedEx was swamped with 800,000 extra packages a day. His strong emotional standing, which had instilled a robust sense of company loyalty, bore fruit during this crisis.

Thousands of employees voluntarily poured into the hubs a little before midnight to sort the mountain of extra packages. Many had already worked previous shifts and stayed over to help the company overcome the crisis. As a result, FedEx achieved a 2% gain in market share and saw its share price rise by 70% over the subsequent twelve months.

The emphasis of shareholder value over the past decades often created imbalance. An analysis of the financial performance of companies with this focus typically underperformed those companies where the leadership fostered key relationships.

Every one of the leaders included in Portfolio Magazine’s list of the “Worst Performing CEO’s,” who were included in the research, revealed significant emotional imbalances among their constituencies. Jack Welch reinforces this when he stated succinctly in his 2009 Financial Times interview, “Your main constituencies are your employees, your customers and your products.”

Related: If You’re Not Emotionally Committed, You’re Not Going to Have a High Degree of Success

A prime example of emotional balance was demonstrated in 1982, when James Burke, CEO of Johnson & Johnson was confronted with the news of seven poison-related deaths, caused by Tylenol capsules that were laced with cyanide. He looked the facts in the face and immediately understood the gravity of the situation.

Against the vehement opposition from his management team, he decided to go directly to the public. Backed with a $ 50 million product recall, he communicated a strong sense of concern, openness and accountability as he frequently appeared on the major and influential television talk shows of the time.

This contributed to the restoration of public trust and saved the Tylenol brand. Burke was strong, bold and decisive and this built a solid base of trust and confidence. He placed his legitimacy, personal stature and reputation on the line. His proactive communications brought his message to the public, and by doing so, controlled the crisis, accompanying expectations and ultimately protected his company’s image and reputation.

Related: Leadership: The divergent tale of two leaders

A synergetic relationship and a balance between these emotional bonds were observed during the research. Each supports and reinforces the other. If one area fails, it contributes to the failure of the others.

For example, leaders like Al Dunlap (Sunbeam) made profit-enhancing decisions that deeply impacted employees, reduced product quality and squeezed vendors and suppliers. In many instances, these destroyed the emotional bonds with each key constituency, while refocusing on their emotional standing solely with the board and stockholders.

While in the short-term these leaders were hailed as triumphant heroes and celebrated by investors, in the long-term they undermined the cohesiveness of legitimacy, validity and critical emotional bonds.

Ultimately, performance suffered and they lost their emotional standing with the stockholders. Once this occurred, they were removed from their positions, if they didn’t have the foresight to prematurely depart, while leaving a mess for someone else to clean up.

Analysis validates that emotional connections tend to begin early and continue throughout the leader’s career as they develop a personal standing with each group of key constituencies. Early emotional connections are able to develop into stronger bonds of trust. This gives leaders the legitimacy, credibility and trust, which lead to future growth, either in their businesses or in their advancement to more prominent positions.

Many revere the prominence of the great leaders, like Ford, Rockefeller, Morgan, Gates and Buffet, due to their individual reputations and achievements. The research reveals that great leaders are also fallible. They make mistakes and often are subject to criticism, some valid, and some triggered by an opponent’s agenda.

But the analysis of the great leaders demonstrates that if and when they choose to persevere and persist in their efforts, they will ultimately succeed. This is a consequence of the emotional support and emotional standing they took the time to nurture and foster throughout their careers.

Related: Your Commitment to Others Defines You as a Leader

The question is, can leaders be effective without these emotional connections? Analysis illustrates that there are leaders who didn’t make all of the necessary emotional connections. Their effectiveness became diminished by the lack of support on multiple levels.

For instance, profit-centric leaders like Dennis Kozlowski (Tyco International) may have developed strong emotional connections with the stockholders, especially since they delivered the short-term profits being sought after. But, at what price?

Many of these types of leaders do so at the expense of their customers and employees. They reduce quality and dramatically downsize their workforce, only focusing on the bottom line. In the short-term they will likely be successful, but their actions undermine the legitimacy, trust and credibility required to build and manage an enduring, successful corporation.

Ultimately, this results in long-term problems due to the loss of the company’s customer base, along with their most productive employees, both who will vote on this leader’s performance with their feet. These actions place companies in financial jeopardy.

For more information on this topic and to read a free chapter, refer to Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It by Timothy F. Bednarz (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011).

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

You Don’t Choose Your Passions, Your Passions Choose You

with 8 comments

Howard-Schultz-Starbucks

Great leaders are passionate. They possess an absolute love for what they do. Steve Jobs (Apple Computer) 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!” [1] Howard Schultz (Starbucks) concurred when he said: When you love something, when you care so much, when you feel the responsibility… you find another gear.”

James Duke (American Tobacco Company) enthusiastically expressed his passion, when he noted, “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.” [2]

Ray Kroc (McDonald’s) couldn’t say enough about his fifteen-cent hamburgers, and Sam Walton (Wal-Mart) was equally passionate about the value that Wal-Mart offered to the average person. Both were evangelists for their companies.

Another passionate evangelist was James Casey (United Parcel Service), as 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 New Yorker profile found him observing a department store’s package-wrapping station and 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!’[3]

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. 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.” [4]

Herb Kelleher (Southwest Airlines) stressed the importance of passion when he stated, “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. 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.” [5]

Jeff Bezos (Amazon) made the following observation about how passion works, and why it motivates so well. “You don’t choose your passions, your passions choose you… One of the huge mistakes people make is that they try to force an interest on themselves. 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. 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.” [6]


[1]  Fry Stephen, The iPad Launch: Can Steve Jobs Do It Again? (Time Magazine, April 1, 2010)

[2]  Klein Maury, The Change Makers (Henry Holt and Company, LLC, New York, NY 2003) p. 99-100

[3]  Lukas Paul, Overfelt Maggie, UPS United Parcel Service James Casey Transformed a Tiny Messenger Service into the World’s Largest Shipper By Getting All Wrapped Up in the Details of Package Delivery (Fortune Small Business, April 1, 2003)

[4]  Ambler George, Steve Jobs and His Leadership (The Practice of Leadership, March 30, 2008)

[5]  Yeh Raymond T. with Yeh Stephanie H., The Art of Business: In the Footsteps of Giants (published October 1, 2004)

[6]  Walker Rob, Jeff Bezos Amazon.com – America’s 25 Most Fascinating Entrepreneurs (Inc. Magazine, April 1, 2004)

Excerpt: Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Majorium Business Press, 2011)

If you would like to learn more about the passions of the great American leaders through their own inspiring words and stories, refer to Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It. It illustrates how great leaders built great companies, and how you can apply the strategies, concepts and techniques that they pioneered to improve your own leadership skills.Click here to learn more.

Copyright © 2011 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

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