When talking about passion, let’s start with this: Passion can’t be faked. That’s because passion creates a genuine commitment to what we’re doing. It’s the energy source that drives the unrelenting pursuit of our work and obtaining the results we want to achieve. Passion is long term. Passion comes from within us.
Unfortunately, passion is often confused with enthusiasm, even though the two are very different. Enthusiasm, unlike passion, is an emotional attachment that may or may not be long lived. Enthusiasm can be fickle. Enthusiasm can also be faked. We’ve all seen it used as the excuse for justifying rude or intolerant behavior and other self-centered excesses, as much in the executive suite as outside it. So the focus of this tip is not enthusiasm, but genuine passion.
The most important thing about passion for your executive presence is that you identify what yours consists of and then focus on it. Is it about winning, leading, getting results, helping others, creating an empire, building a business, being a knowledge expert, coaching, mentoring, teaching, or pursuing excellence? Whatever it is (and it’s usually a combination of a very small number of things), it is critical that you identify it and understand it. Once you do you can focus on how to best satisfy it.
You don’t have to look far to see that genuine passion is critical to the very best executive presence. Jack Welch, for example, was passionate about winning when he led GE, and everyone knew it. His successor, Jeff Imelt, projects that passion as well. The late Peter Jennings was passionate about knowledge and the news when he was with ABC, and it always came through in his broadcasts. We all know leaders who are passionate. We can feel it when we’re with them, and some of it almost always rubs off on us.
I’m sometimes asked if you can have really good executive presence without passion. My answer is I doubt it. I’ve never seen it. That’s not to say you can’t have very good interpersonal presence and be quite engaging, but you will not exude the committed leadership that genuine passion produces.
The reason passion is so important to executive presence is that good executive presence involves more than surface behavior. Although executive presence does not exist without surface expression (by definition its expressive dimensions must be projected), executive presence is also greatly affected by our emotional states. Passion is the emotional energy that enables us to project the commitment to what we do and the sincere desire to do it that helps get others energized and on board.
At the same time, passion must be disciplined, since it can cause us to be impatient with others, too demanding, and too frustrated with the inevitable obstacles to our success. This, however, is a problem that good executive presence development can deal with. The absence of passion is not.
The moral of the story? If you want to develop excellent executive presence, examine why and what you want to accomplish with it, and then find the sparks within you igniting the passion that will give your journey real commitment. Others will immediately feel it and will naturally engage with you because of it.