Posted: March 31, 2013 by Tom Heuer in Leadership, People

heuerWhat are you truly passionate about in your work? What do you really believe in? Is there anything that you will risk it all for? Or is financial security your “true North?”

There is a real paradox blooming in corporate America today. And it is causing personal conflict and anxiety at many levels in organizations. The paradox is associated with an employee’s beliefs and their unwillingness to step up and hold fast to their vision and values in the face of adversity. It is easier or more convenient to back off and go along with the pack. Our stamina for what we believe in fritters away under our absence of courage.

What is startling to me is that even people in firm’s with “leadership reputations” have acquiesced. I asked the question recently to a group of leaders from a principled, growth-oriented company with an outstanding reputation of being a “great place to work.” We wanted to know “why it is difficult to have courage in the workplace.” The response heard most often was that “I am not ready to leave the company or to be put on the back burner. I just can’t trust my boss to respond in the right way.” Such statements tell us fear and lack of passion is a prominent part of the business environment.

Understand this. Without courage, passion is meaningless. And passion moves people to higher levels of commitment. And commitment moves mountains. This is why companies must create work environments where people can have the courage to stand up for what they believe in. What will the company and the leader earn? Honest dialogue, breakthrough ideas, personal commitment and company loyalty just to name a few.

Most managers are not anxious to promote courage as an admired characteristic. Courage may require confrontation. It will bring about uncomfortable situations. Courage looks you straight in the eye and says, “Are you with me?” And most of us say “I have too much at stake to put what I believe on the line.” The lure of the five-hour golf game on the signature course is just too strong.

Leaders must begin the dialogue with their people about “talking and acting courageously.” The first question should be – “what are you really passionate about in your job?” All bosses must clearly understand what turns their people on. What do they really care about? Passion is required in everyone’s work. And it is the leader’s obligation to understand their passion and insist that they pursue it. We must do it for the company, the shareholders and the firm’s future leaders. Encourage them to act on their passion. And their efforts will exceed expectations.

Rewards are important. Yes, the golf game, a beautiful house and the kid’s education are certainly a part of the plan. But, in reality, these “things” will all happen if the work is rewarding. Work with passion and the rewards will flow. It is up to us as leaders to enable this outcome. How can we accomplish this? Start by asking your people to reflect on the following questions:

•            What is it you truly believe? What is it that you are passionate about?

•            Picture your passion. How would you describe it? How has it impacted your life?

•            At what point will you not defend your passion? When will you betray your beliefs? Why does this occur?

Start here. Make this a primer on “passion and courage.” Be prepared for a more emotionally charged conversation. Do not open this door unless you are willing to walk through it. It will change your relationship with your people and will ratchet up the passion and the effort.

I want your response. Contact me at

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