Passion without Principles

Napoleon Bonaparte once said:

Great ambition is the passion of a great character. Those endowed with it may perform very good or very bad acts. All depends on the principles which direct them.

Passion can be a great thing.  It provides drive to accomplish things.  It is an inner energy for something.  It fuels a love for someone or something.  Passion is that attribute of leadership that can accomplish great works, generate great excitement, and inspire others to accomplish even more.  However, without principles to guide it, passion can drive very bad actions as easily as it can very good actions.  Consider the table below:

Passion can drive…Good Actions

Passion can drive…Bad Actions

·       Drive exceptional results

·       Help an employee develop in their career, expand skills, or stretch their capabilities

·       Expand or grow our business

·       Deliver on ambitious objectives previously believed impossible to achieve

·       Create opportunities from challenges

·       Make a difference in the life of a coworker or another individual

·       Compromising standards to meet a project deadline

·       Violating the rights of an individual to meet a deadline or fulfill an urgent request

·       Cheat

·       Compromise values that should guide our behavior and actions

·       Take unnecessary risks that could yield undesirable results

·       A poor decision that incurs long-term negative results

What is that one thing that defines whether passion will be used for good actions or bad actions?  I would argue that it is the principles by which we live, act, and operate.  If we value the principles of compliance, treating others how we want to be treated, achieving success with integrity, doing what we say we will do, and adding value to our company/patients/customers, then our passion will accomplish those positive actions, not the negative.

How can you ensure that your passion (and actions) will always be based on positive principles?  What can we do to drive positive behaviors in our teammates?  How can we emphasize positive use of our passions?  I believe there are three key things that we can do to help ensure we properly channel our passions:

  1. Determine in advance the principles by which we will liveMy wife and I always taught our three kids that the best thing they could do to ensure that they made good decisions under pressure was to decide in advance what boundaries they had.  For instance, if they made a firm commitment in advance that there were no circumstances in which they would experiment with drugs, alcohol, or anything else illegal or immoral, then it would be easier when pressure was applied to say, “No.”  If you wait until you are pressed for an immediate decision, it is much harder to make positive, principled decisions.
  2. Model principled behaviorsYou cannot very easily lead when you say, “do what I say, not what I do.”  There is no credibility in that at all.  So, you need, as a leader, to “walk the talk.”
  3. Reward principled decisionsThe best way to motivate others to retain their passion, but do so in a principled way is to recognize and reward individuals that do so.  Highlighting those actions we consider “good” will re-enforce those behaviors and encourage more of it.

Good leaders demonstrate passion, but they do so in a principled, controlled manner.  How does this speak to you today?

Have a fabulous day!

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