Identifying Passion – A Leadership Responsibility

Undoubtedly one of the most difficult functions of leadership is to create within another the desire, will and passion needed to create sustained movement, especially when met with fierce resistance or unseen obstacles.

Just two days ago I was having a conversation with a leader who was frustrated by someone in their office who “just isn’t stepping up”, who “just doesn’t seem to get it.”  How often have we as leaders been faced with similar situations? 

Let’s get personal as we consider this imperative of desire, will, passion or in other words, the driving force behind any progress and movement. Are you a passionate person?  Said differently, are you a driven individual?  If yes, then what pushes you, what gets you out of bed in the morning?   If your answer is no, then we ask why not?  What are you missing?

Whatever your response to these questions, there is a valuable exercise and model that we would like to share with you today that will assist you in re-aligning, finding, or strengthening that which you already have if you answered in the affirmative or don’t have if your response to the above question was negative.

As you delve into what you are passionate about, consider three key elements taken from an adapted version of The Hedgehog Concept found in a book written by Jim Collins called “Good To Great” where he explores the idea that true passion is an understanding of where your strengths lie and their relation to creating ongoing drive and motivation.  We’ll explore these three elements as three questions, the first of which is:  What are you passionate about?  This asks you to be honest with yourself, look deep within, and identify those things that make your dreams come alive.  By asking this question we’re exploring areas of ourselves we often seem to bury, hide or ignore.  A companion question to this one might be:  What did I love when I was young?  Bear in mind that the answer doesn’t lay so much in what it was we loved, but rather why we loved it.

A few weeks ago we had the privilege of meeting with Elizabeth Zambonini, CEO of The Hope Factory.  She is a wonderful example of a person who sat herself down, asked herself the right questions and created a driving force that has assisted her to overcome many obstacles as she has turned The Hope Factory from a garage start-up into one of the top Entrepreneurial Development Initiatives in the country.  

Another of the questions she would have asked herself, and the second element in the model is:  What can you be the best at in the world?  This answer helps us to tie down whether we are simply dreamers, or whether or not we are able to turn our ideas into something real.  Passion cannot exist where action does not.  Desire, will and passion are fed by action. 

Often what happens to us is that we train technically – through a university or tertiary institution – and this technical training takes us away from the innate talents and abilities we own.  If we focused on them, these abilities are often exactly those things that what would make us rise to the top.  In asking yourself what you can be the best at in the world, it is also valuable to get an objective, third party to give you honest feedback and criticism.

The final element or question taken from The Hedgehog Concept is:  What drives my economic engine?  Or in other words, and for our intended purposes today, what are my financial goals and ambitions?  This is such a necessary question because so many of us have no financial direction other than to “get rich”.  Defining what you need and what you want will assist you in creating milestones for your financial future.  More than this and in relation to passion, it assists in determining whether or not there really is a future as you pursue your intended course.  What is critical is that this question of economics must be asked last.  Financial compensation only goes so far in creating motivation and drive. 

The truest, most powerful passion comes by aligning inner core values and beliefs with goals and action that make these beliefs real.

The Hedgehog Concept is a model that is visually represented by three overlapping circles (based on the three questions we have just discussed), that produce an inner core area of strength which serves as a foundation for further movement forward and upward.  We can and should assess and re-assess this foundation or area of strength, no matter our age or current position in life, every year on an ongoing basis.

If this model is able to assist on a personal level, it goes without saying that using this as part of your leadership arsenal when dealing with people would yield similar results.

Avinash Singh, Head of ABSA Private Bank, shared with us that he felt one of the challenges leaders face today is putting the right people in the right positions to produce the right results.  Not getting personal enough is often where we as leaders go wrong with our people. 

We encourage each one of you to ensure that you spend enough quality, one on one leadership time with your teams and employees.  Use models like The Hedgehog Concept to assist you and them in understanding what makes them tick and their best fit in the organization.  

All people, no matter their background or circumstances, have within them a passionate core that if discovered and worked with properly will translate into a driving force that very few things will be able to counter.  Our responsibility as leaders is to assist each and every one of our people to discover this within themselves.  If we are able to do this we will never again need to concern ourselves with what happens when we are not at the office or on a larger scale, whether or not we are able to achieve our organizational objectives and goals.  

The onus is on us though – not them.  The buck stops with you and me.  We are the leaders.

This article appeared in the:

The Workplace

Do you recognize some areas in yourself or your team that need improvement? Email Adriaan on for more on creating “Leadership Fit” leaders that generate successful movement (performance) inside your organisation.




Adriaan, as an accomplished author and leadership advisor, has been interviewing and working with top leaders for more than 15 years. He is the Co-Founder and CEO of Leadership Platform. (Twitter: @AdriaanG_LP)

Call: +27 (0)12 653 3022

Follow Us

Leadership Platform is a specialist leadership development consultancy, focusing on creating measurable impact to the bottom line through the enhancement of leadership understanding and engagement.


By subscribing you will be updated with the latest insights and news from us. We never spam.