Lately I’ve been writing about the elusiveness of passion at work, and how important it is for leaders to focus on it, unleash it, and reward those who put their enthusiasm into work. Personal passion – when aligned with company purpose and values – is a powerful force for boosting high performance.

But it won’t happen without forethought. It’s not good enough for leaders to assume they’ll know it when they see it and leave it up to their people to bring it on. They must have personal familiarity for what drives passion at work in their domain and set the platform for others by articulating clear values and purpose.

Furthermore, no one can get passionate and perform over and beyond expectations without autonomy and a sense of responsibility. Leaders who insist on controls and top-down management will struggle to get grass roots participation.

Formal hierarchies are typically miserable at driving innovation and creativity. Participative management styles, on the other hand, are good at creating cultures where ideas and passion can grow and flourish. Are managers convinced, however, that less control and more autonomy is possible for improved productivity and performance? It remains to be seen. Most of the managers I work with, don’t want to hand over their managerial controls.

5 Tips to Ignite Passion

Here are a few suggestions for unleashing passion and performance where you work, from Red Hat’s CEO Jim Whitehurst. In The Open Organization, Whitehurst suggests five key leadership tips:

  1. Passion is contagious. When leaders display emotion, others will follow.
  2. Most companies have a stated purpose or mission. Integrate it into your dialogue with others on a daily basis.
  3. Add passionate words to your work vocabulary: “love,” “hate,” “excited” and “upset.” Others will adopt this behavior.
  4. Ask questions that tease out passion when hiring (i.e., “What inspires you?”).
  5. Create vehicles for people to show their unvarnished selves. Company outings or team-building events should allow for some silliness.

How do leaders in your organization ignite passion? How can you participate to create an inspirational workplace? I’d love to hear what’s happening where you work. You can contact me here or on LinkedIn.