3 Signs You’re Squelching Your Emerging Leaders’ Passion

When you can make the connection between passion and mission, you can truly propel your organization to a new level of performance.  ~Jim Whitehurst (President and CEO of Red Hat)

1. You poke holes.

When employees come with an idea that steps outside of their job description boundaries, the first thing you tell them is what’s wrong with it, why it’s a bad idea, or it’s a waste of time.  You don’t even ask a question to better understand their thought process, their rationale, or to find that nugget of gold that might be hiding in their idea.

I see this frequently. Emerging leaders are trying to be innovative, trying to be forward-thinking, and they aren’t going to get it right every time or come up with life-altering ideas. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be praised for their willingness to think out of the box, move out of their comfort zone, or challenge the status quo.

Instead: to fuel passion, appreciate employees’ action, even if the idea itself may not have merit, right now.

2. You don’t help them actually emerge.

You aren’t giving emerging leaders space to spread their wings.  You tell them they are part of an emerging leaders group, but then there’s no career path identified, no mentoring or coaching.  In other words, nothing changes except they’re being referred to as an “emerging leader.”

Instead: to fuel passion, really coach and mentor. Give them projects that stretch their abilities, come alongside them and coach them to success. Let them come alongside you. I remember hearing a leader once say that he made it a practice to never travel alone. What he meant by that was, he always brought an emerging leader with him to meetings and on trips so they could be gaining experience and learning, first-hand.

3. You lose sight of your mission.

You’ve become more focused on the “margin” than the “mission.” 

Every organization has financial demands. When the focus of an organization (not-for-profit and for profit) skews in the direction of finances over purpose, passion quickly fades. When passion fades, so does performance. This doesn’t mean leaders should not be concerned about finances, but they should be concerned if employees are hearing them talk about money far more than mission.

Instead: to fuel passion, highlight mission moments. Always start your communication with the mission first, and the finances will follow.

Jim Whitehurst said, “It’s my belief that every organization has the potential for world-changing impact. The role of a leader is to foster passion around that impact and to keep that passion alive by reinforcing it every day.” 

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