What’s behind the passion of great leaders?

I’m a big fan of really great leaders. There are more of them out there than you might believe because the press seems to want to capitalize on the worst of them. Perhaps I’m biased by the work I do, but consider that I’ve been in the business world, a leader myself, and an observer and student of other leaders for a very long time (I’ll keep my secret about how long!). I’ve been around the bend and I’ve seen a lot of very good leaders.

Those great leaders love to lead even if they can still get tired, frustrated, and angry at how hard it can be. Yet even in the face of professional and personal adversity they will pick themselves up, reinvigorated and ready to make a difference in the lives of the people and organizations they lead.

I’ve noticed that it’s what’s behind the passion for their work that keeps them going:

The people: People are at the top of the great leader’s list of reasons being passionate for what they do because they know they can’t lead alone. Exceptional leaders love people even with all of their messiness, confusion, and difficulty because they get joy from guiding them to perform at levels that they didn’t know were possible. These leaders forge strong bonds with the people they lead, helping them to reach or exceed their potential through mentoring, coaching, and being a great example.

The learning: The best leaders have a curious attitude and a beginner’s mind. Their world is changing quickly and they can swiftly adapt to every new situation that comes along. They never seem to tire of asking the questions needed to understand what’s happening and to figure out solutions with their teams that work. They learn from their mistakes, live full lives inside and outside of work, and they reflect regularly on the impact they make and how they can get even better at it.

The challenges: The great leaders not only love the challenge of leading their organizations and getting people to work together, they also meet the challenge of saying “no” to doing things that aren’t mission critical. They continually prioritize work opportunities with their vision in mind. They are willing to trust others to get the work done without their interference even when it’s tempting to do it themselves because they understand the double win of helping others to grow through challenging work while lifting themselves up to higher ground to lead at their best.

The best leaders are grounded in a passion for what they do and the people who help them to do it; they love to learn and they enjoy the challenges of leading.

Have you reflected about what makes you passionate in your leadership? What gets you out of bed in the morning?


Mary Jo Asmus is the founder and President of Aspire Collaborative Services LLC, an executive coach, writer, internationally recognized thought leader, and a consultant who partners with organizations of all kinds to develop and administer coaching programs. She has “walked in your shoes” as a former leader in a Fortune company.

Leave a Reply