Passion is misplaced. Heart is misunderstood. Both are relevant in business, culture, and leadership yet so many get it wrong… me included.
There are too many calls to follow your passion, show your passion, and live your passion. Some may look at others and ask “why aren’t you pursuing what you are passionate about?” Others may say “I am passionate and you are not.” Another group may just tell you to “quit your job and start living your passion.”
Words are simple. Words also confuse and distract.
Turn to your heart. In business, heart is ignored. “Heart-based” sounds squishy. How can heart matter when a good bottom line is the best sign of a healthy business? Heart-based sounds weak. How can heart matter when competitors are making each sale more challenging than the last one?
Heart gets caged. Hard-core metrics rule.
A Small Town Story
A quick diversion. It is relevant. I grew up on a farm near a town of less than 600 people. Farmers and merchants do their jobs every day. Are they passionate? Knowing this is hard to tell. In my experience, they seem happy. I often ask myself “why do they do what they do when they could be doing something much bigger?” They could be doing something to really stoke their passion and create a something much more meaningful in a much bigger place.
The reality finally hit me. They live and lead with heart. Heart is about place. They are in a place to make a difference and their passion is exhibited in how they care for the land, their families, their customers, and their neighbors. By living and leading with heart, they create meaningful ripples that last many lifetimes.
The Small Town Generation: Millennials
Millennials are not a small generation. They made up 24 percent of the U.S. population in 2014, according to The Nielsen Company. The Pew Research Center says Millennials will bust past the Baby Boom generation as the nation’s largest living generation in 2015. With the large numbers, Generation Y or Millennials may return business and leadership to heart ways. Or, as a Deloitte survey reinforces, a return to people and purpose.
Although there is an essential mix of financial and innovation goals, the top three leadership priorities for Millennials are:
- Ensuring the long-term future of the organization (cited by 43 percent of respondents)
- Focusing on employees’ well-being (cited by 37 percent)
- Investing in employees’ growth and development (cited by 32 percent)
Millennials link purpose to culture and success. (tweet to share) More than this, as the Deloitte survey points out, Millennials connect purpose to confidence in an organization’s ability to grow, perform, innovate, and engage. See the chart below.
Source: 2014 Deloitte Core Beliefs & Culture Survey
Here is my point. Just as in family farms and small towns, people are in the flow of their work because this is where their heart is. Heart delivers a certain comfort but it is not a laziness of leaving things as they are. Heart keeps yearning to do better next year – learn more, grow more, and serve more. Heart delivers a confidence to make the place we work and live better with each week, month, and year.
Heart embraces purpose and, in that embrace, good works happen. Good products are designed and developed. Good people become better people. Great people collaborate in renewed ways to solve problems and produce profits. Growing, profitable organizations serve many more stakeholders than just a few people at the top. This is heart-based leadership and business. This is Conscious Capitalism. This is the solid change forthcoming as Millennials pour into leadership positions.
The Pesky Problem of Passion
Returning to passion, how does it fit into all this? Passion is relevant when our hearts are engaged in the right place. Passion is not an end goal. After all, passion is about emotion and feeling, and our passion needs a place to be put to use in productive, meaningful ways.
Heart is the center of emotion. Our heart produces a flow of activity. If pure passion drives our actions, we may lose our center. (tweet to share) When our heart drives our action, we create a better center. While passion is a pursuit, heart is a place. (tweet to share) Getting our heart right will ensure we create the right place to get our passion right.
In business, we create a place. The business place manifests itself in the culture developed. A culture with a strong sense of purpose realizes that caring for and empowering people, customers, and other key stakeholders makes for a profitable experience and results. This is not a weak, unaccountable culture. Just the opposite. To keep a strong heart requires a healthy balance of rest, exercise, and nutrients. If a heart gets lazy, failure begins to happen quickly.
A healthy heart-based organization understand the role of accountability in purpose. A healthy heart-based business understands the role of profits in purpose. A healthy heart-based business knows collaboration and leadership begins with a strong core, not self-centered hierarchical top.
A Call to Get Heart Right in Business and Leadership
Older generations can learn from the new generation entering in. We can shake-up our misplaced notions and refresh our leadership ways and re-engage our heart to create a better place. By a better place, I mean a more conscious business and culture.
The call then is create, foster, and engage a:
Place to learn: How can individuals enhance their skills and refresh their mindsets? How can teams work more collaboratively in purpose?
Place to grow: How can individuals have greater influence in their work and impact? How can people move up, move across, or use their talents in new ways?
Place to lead: How can the leadership ability of individuals be tapped? What values should leaders embrace and exemplify?
Place to do good works: How can people be recognized for their good works, no matter where or when they occur? How can good works be extended outside the four walls of an office? How can the good works outside the office be encouraged and welcomed?
Place to leave things better than before: How can people feel like they have the responsibility and power to leave things better than they found them? This is continuous improvement on steroids! How can people really feel like they own a part of the outcome and be proud in their positive impact?
Heart is a place where passion develops and gains strength. Cultures that embrace heart will grow in purpose, profit, talent, and impact. (tweet to share) Leaders that embrace heart will strengthen their working relationships with different stakeholders and produce long-lasting results. The challenge for leaders is to create the right heart-based organization so all involved find a place to use their passion.
Join the Conversation
Why Heart Matters More Than Passion
That just put everything in perspective. I never thought it this way before. Heart really matters even if you are not really passionate about it. You might eventually find your passion in the same thing but later in life.
This gave me a whole new perspective, Jon. As part of the Millennial, yes I really consider purpose in choosing the path of my career. Sometimes, I still experience moments of doubts wherein I question myself whether this is really where I should be. I guess the important thing to do is to surround yourself with people who share the same passion and love. This allows you to refocus and redefine your purpose to keep you going. Also, reminding yourself why you chose the path you’re in helps you strive harder until you’re emotionally back in shape.
Beautiful, Jon. Heart is a grounded, centering aspect for our work and our life. Often, working with leaders who have heart, I have received a sense of how personal this is. It does not needed to be stated or worn on the sleeve. It is often a kind of strong simplicity, unstated and implicit but felt and present, transmitted through the tone of a leader’s actions and words. Describing the decline of civilization, the great Irish poet, William Butler Yeats, said:
“The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.”
I think we could translate to say things are in decline when the best lack heart and the worst make passion a substitute for real substance and meaningful connection. In the business world, it is easy to get up on stage (literally or figuratively) to declaim on the value of passion, when it is the heart that more certainly holds the key to better organizations.
Well put, Dan. Too often passion gets misused in business and your point is well-taken. They use the word passion because the true heart of the business and organizational culture is lacking. Thank you for adding an important insight to the conversation! Jon
I am so intrigued on how you view passion and heart, but it is true that we often find our passions along the way while doing meaningful work. Then our hearts kick in and our work becomes more passionate.
From working with Millennials, I have learned that they will choose organizations to work for that have a meaningful purpose for them. Instead of just taking a job, GenY wants to make a difference and relate to the product or service that a company is providing. Other generations connected more with the actual work and less about the purpose. Yet, all the generations include their hearts in following meaningful work that matters to them.
Thanks Jon for a great and thoughtful piece!
Agree, Terri. Getting the purpose right for an organization will help attract and retain talented people from any generation. I believe Millennials are placing this idea of purpose front-and-center within organizations again, and I believe many are beginning to listen and want the same thing. Thanks for your added insights! Jon – See more at: http://www.thindifference.com/2015/03/heart-matters-passion/#comment-4502
I really enjoyed this piece and the distinction you draw between heart and passion. I too see many calls to action to follow your passion. I’ve had more than a few people come my way and say, “I have a family. I have responsibilities. I can’t just risk it all to follow my passion.” But the truth is that they can follow their heart right where they are…. make a difference, make a connection, make work meaningful beyond the routine of the day to day. There are things each of us can do from where we stand today once we are willing to engage our hearts. The beautiful part is that oftentimes passion will meet us where we least expect it.
Look forward to sharing!
“Passion meets us when we least expect” is a key idea, I believe, Alli. Get our place right and passion will flourish. Heart in place, passion grows. Thanks for you added insights. Your perspective always engages me further. Grateful! Jon