Passion: Make a Difference

Have you ever noticed that passionate people often get things done? For me, godly passion just about trumps most qualities for getting things done. A passionate person cuts the passive middle ground down to size and gets people off the fence. Yes, passion isn’t always well received but a passionate person creates a conversation in surprising ways. A passionate person has something about them that cuts through ‘stuff’. Passion makes a strong appeal to the emotions and in the presence of a passionate person, we find ourselves being stirred. Jesus was passionate. Peter was passionate. John was passionate. Paul was passionate. Here are six things I’ve noticed about passionate leaders.

Passion energises: When I become passionate about something, I throw off the kind of caution that is born out of a fear of failure or self-consciousness or just being plain timid. From somewhere deep within, a new awareness and an ‘it really does matter’ attitude emerges. Mostly it comes from something or someone getting through my normal reservations and touching what really matters to me. I find myself willing to do what I was unwilling to do before, enthusiastically.

Passion refuses the status quo: Part of passion’s energy comes from a flat refusal to allow the present state of affairs to continue. The fact that something is accepted as normal, the way we do things loses its validity for not doing something. It has been said that ‘we will only move forward once the pain of staying where we are becomes greater than the pain of moving forward’. A passionate person has the ability to make us feel uncomfortable in a way that helps us to move on.

Passion is infectious: Passion is first caught. True, a passionate person needs to make more than an emotional appeal to make a difference. An emotional appeal is not enough on its own, but it does grab our attention and stir our hearts. To broaden its appeal, passion must partner with reason and be carried by a person or team that has credibility with integrity. Passion and reason are powerful when friends but they do not always start out well together.

Passion influences people: One person’s passion can be dismissed. But two people’s passion causes more probing questions to arise. Together these have more than twice the power to influence people. When we are part of a passionate church or organisation things will change. Change means getting things done and that helps construct the future that we envisage. Christians Against Poverty (CAP) is an example of a passionate ministry. Things change quickly to bring growth and improvement. Why has CAP influenced so many thousands of people? Because their founder John Kirkby is passionate, therefore CAP is passionate. I cannot remain indifferent in his presence, my passion is soon stirred.

Passion narrows choices: Passion shifts the balance of power between ‘can’t’ and ‘can’ more than anything I know. Passion brings focus and focus brings productively. Focus narrows choice to bring about results. Whenever I have been tempted to bring too much change at a time I have found that it is much harder to carry people with me. They might come with me out of respect or loyalty but this is undesirable in and of itself, and produces limited results. Passion helps to deliberately narrow choices, to set priorities and this massively improves our chances of getting longed for results. Passion correctly and wisely handled makes an impact that invites others to join emotionally and rationally. Both are crucial ingredients.

Passion leaves a legacy: You have to die to leave a legacy. OK, you may not physically die (just yet) but we must die all the same. To be a passionate and consistent person takes a great deal of moral and spiritual courage. It is no longer about you. When we die to self we make a huge investment in others. They become our living legacy and carry the inner essence of the passion that we have imparted to them. We give it but we do not own it. This kind of authenticity is for others to use and build with. The world needs passionate people. The world needs you at your passionate best and in so doing you can make a real difference.

Is it Possible to Lead a Balanced Life?

Finding the right way to balance my life is a huge and constant challenge. Deep down, I’m searching for a balanced life that can be sustained. Over the years, I’ve tried many different ways to achieve this. As I have observed others, I’ve noticed that people tend to be clustered at the far ends of the scale between too focused or too laid back. But it’s for the middle ground of balance that I yearn.

Where am I on the scales of life?

At one end of the scale, I’ve noticed that many I know are either too focused, too organised. These are the stressed and just little too close to workaholic. At the other end of the scale are those who take things much more as they come, enjoy moving between different things easily, perhaps too distracted, and just a little too close to chaotic. There are undoubted strengths and weaknesses of each position. It’s good to be clear and focused, just as it right to be available and flexible. Over my working life, I have tended to veer towards overwork.

Waking up to self-awareness

In the wake of a breakdown – I’m now recovering – I’ve had a huge wake-up call. As things stand at the moment I’ve become more self-aware of my own needs as a person and my significant need is to get and keep the balance I crave. I’ve found that I feel so much more fulfilled and at peace with myself when that happens. So how can I know when I’m in the red zone or running smoothly? And what’s more, how can I make changes or who do I call on if things are skidding off course?

Finding what works for you

I have come to appreciate the following model. I don’t remember reading or hearing about this from anyone else, and I certainly can’t claim it to be original but, it works for me. My plan is simple. I divide my days into thirds. In a balanced and satisfying day, I enjoy a ‘three thirds’ day.

Each third offers a different form of activity, and it is the balance between these elements that provide the inner harmony I need. Too much of any one part and I soon feel that ‘out-of-sorts’ feeling. ‘Out of sorts’ leads to ‘out of balance’. And, out of balance means I don’t live out of a peaceful heart.

Of course, I can stay in one area more than I would choose if the situation demands it, but not for long and before long the warning sign begins to appear. My capacity is much reduced these days and a wrong balance results in a quicker depletion than it used to. My safeguard is that I come back to my ‘three thirds’ rule.

Simplicity is the key

Here’s my simple approach. Ideally, each day should contain:

1 Some time on my own, writing, study, prayer, administration. I need to be on my own.

2 Some time with others, meetings, mentoring, visits, calls, prayer. I need to be with other people.

3 Some time relaxing, resting, exercising, doing something different. I need to invest in myself.

Making a balanced audit 

How did I better understand my need for balance? With the help of others, I audited my waking hours by writing down the things that I found replenishing or draining. I asked what makes me feel good or helps me give my best? Where and when do I make my best contributions? What depleting activities should I avoid or seek to minimise?

Getting support

By talking things through with trusted colleagues and friends, they helped me to rebuild my productivity around the things that where I contribute best. I have found that others were only too willing to take some things from me, sometimes because my draining activity was their replenishing activity. That’s the wonder of working and living with a great team of people. I’m blessed.

I can’t say that I have mastered pacing my life completely, but I enjoy the days when there is a ‘three thirds’ balance. On these days, I feel so much more productive, more relaxed and more fulfilled. And right now, that’s really important.

Great Leaders in Short Supply

Great leaders are in short supply. Beware of imitations; they are on sale everywhere and at bargain prices too. Wherever great leaders show up they define the season, the climate and the history. So what makes a great leader? The answer, I believe, is found in the authenticity of the person. It’s not found in technique, qualification, or experience although these things can be great add-ons.

Today, we are suffering from hurry sickness and from the corner-cutting quick fix. There is no such thing as a quick fix. Becoming a person of authenticity is a life-long commitment – no short cuts, no days off. Here’s some things I’ve noticed about authentic leaders.

Authentic leaders are not trying to look good: They are secure in who they are and know the contributions that they bring. They build the climate, set the tone and are deeply concerned for the welfare of those they lead. They are not in the business of looking good. But neither are they content to just work the system; no, they seek to change it or create it. They are prepared to risk short-term unpopularity in pursuit of that greater dream. They are not dependent on the approval of others for their self-worth but neither are they unconnected from their followers. Something within them burns for that greater dream.

Authentic leaders play for the long-term: They know the power of the compass and usefulness of the map. The compass sets the direction, the map the detail. In life we need both, but the authentic leader knows which to use and when. They know themselves; they are self-aware, knowing their strengths and the site of their limitations. Self-aware leaders are not ashamed of their limitations but they use that knowledge to find others who are strong where they are weak. Every leader needs headroom and a clear space to work. They thrive on building, creating space and offering their creation to others to work with.

Authentic leaders create the climate: These leaders know the importance of being climate creators. When they engage with people they set the weather. Their weather is infectious; always uplifting, encouraging and has high influence on others. They are in the business of creating the environment in which others will thrive. And they know that this climate fosters great individual and organisational behaviour. It is the leadership climate that fathers the working culture. That’s why your people become like you – you infect them with who you are.

Authentic leaders seek the welfare of team members: They don’t talk ‘me’, they don’t criticise others, and they don’t prattle on. Instead they give their attention to others, talk with their eyes, and affirm through gestures and actions. They operate through personal openness offering themselves ahead of knowledge or experience; this is how they offer their support and they are loved because of it. This kind of leadership is called ’emotionally intelligent’ leadership (EQ) and is now credited as a far better predictor of authentic leadership than IQ. Emotionally intelligent leaders care for their teams.

Authentic leaders create authentic followers: No one is a leader who does not create a following. And the simple truth is that the followers will behave like the leader. It’s an awesome truth, yet powerful. Be the person you want others to be; be yourself, be the light and others will follow. Acts 4:13 reads like this: “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.” Jesus the authentic leader birthed authentic followers and still does today.

Finally, authentic leaders attract a following because of their character. They are humble, have a tested integrity, and are accessible socially and emotionally to others. As I have grown older I have understood that my leadership impact is defined by these things so much more than stellar performances. Yes, I want to leave a legacy and I want it to begin before I am no more. Our epitaphs are decided by others – compressed summaries of our lives inspired by who we really are in the eyes of others. Enoch ‘walked with God’, Simeon was ‘just and devout’ and Barnabas was said to be a ‘son of encouragement’. Great leaders breed great leaders. Live your legacy today.