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Why passionate leaders get better results

27 May, 2015

"Passion is one of the most powerful engines of success. When you do a thing, do it with all your might. Put your whole soul into it. Stamp it with your own personality.

Be active, be energetic and faithful, and you will accomplish your object. Nothing great was ever achieved without passion." – Ralph Waldo Emerson

That pretty much sums it up. But we've still got 400 words to go so I'll continue. Passion is one of those intangible things that can't be taught or learned. You either have it or you don't and you never will have it unless you love what you're doing. If what you're doing happens to be your job, congratulations, you're one of the lucky few.

Embrace the passion you have for your job and harness every bit of energy you have into a clear vision for where you want to go and what you want to achieve. If you do, there is every chance of following in the footsteps of some of the world's truly passionate business leaders.

Jeff Bezos – founder of Amazon

You don't build the largest retailer on the Internet from the ground up without unbridled passion, something Jeff Bezos possesses by the shopping cartful. But what set Bezos apart in his early endeavours to establish Amazon was his willingness to fail. He failed plenty of times along the way and built a healthy band of critics.

What he also built was a team of people who bought into his belief as much as he did. They saw his vision because he could spell it out. They saw his confidence because failure didn't rattle him. And they saw his passion because his pioneering spirit was infectious. Bezos and his team failed, got up, and kept going because the passion was real, the purpose was real. Passionate leaders get results because they believe in their vision enough to be an eyesore until they get there.

Bill Gates – co-founder of Microsoft

Bespectacled, benign, don't be fooled. Bill Gates, a man who was round the corner when the charisma was handed out, was the world's youngest self-made billionaire and remains one of the richest people in the world today.

Why? First, because he's extraordinarily passionate about everything he does, including his well publicised charity work. Two, because he makes up for a lack of aura with a surfeit of authority. Bill Gates demonstrates that you don't have to be Martin Luther King behind the lectern to realise your dream. Cool confidence and a belief in your own expertise can get you there.  

Indra Nooyi – CEO of PepsiCo

"It's got to be a passion. It's got to be your calling." That's the mantra of Indra Nooyi, one of the most powerful women in the world and in charge of a company selling vast quantities of consumer goods to more than 200 countries across the globe. To Nooyi, it's not about getting a large paycheque and just doing a job. It's about loving what you're doing and believing in what you're doing.

At PepsiCo Nooyi practices what she calls 'connected autonomy.' Good people around the globe are given autonomy over the products for their part of the world. The connection is the core brands and tastes. It's then up to each autonomous manager to adapt tastes to reflect local flavours. Putting trust in those around her is central to the Nooyi philosophy, but her passion for the job – a job she sees as her life – is the driving force behind her success.

Richard Branson – founder of the Virgin Group

No article on passion would be complete without Mr Passion himself, Richard Branson, a man who flies around the world in balloons when he's not running airlines, megastores and hotels. His philosophy is simple: you need passion and energy to be successful in business, though a sound knowledge of your market certainly helps.

Branson's often casual, mischievous charm has been an infectious ingredient in cross-contaminating a multitude of like minds, super positive individuals who now help him to fly the Virgin flag. He learned to delegate early in his career; to trust in others and he encouraged them to take the same risks he was happy to take himself. With a man like Branson backing their every move, how could they possible fail?