Article: Passion and dispassion- 2 faces of self-leadership

Learning & Development

Passion and dispassion- 2 faces of self-leadership

L&D functions should look to tie the outcomes of an initiative with clear goals of what a participant should try and achieve
Passion and dispassion- 2 faces of self-leadership

Many of us set lofty goals, and get started with great vigour and passion to achieve them. However, the challenge is to continue with the same vigour and undying passion till we make it happen. Any idea is born with the fervour to learn, to grow, to progress and to improve ourselves, our business, and our people in the organization. In my coaching engagements I have had interactions with people wanting to improve skills, change habits, which they are aware, that if practiced regularly, would bring about significant positive changes to them and their teams. Why is it difficult for most us to sustain through the end?

Research across a variety of settings, has shown that the practice of effective self-leadership by employees is important for organizational initiatives to succeed, and also contributes to improved job satisfaction, employee morale, self-efficacy and employee productivity. Self-mastery would be a result of the dynamic bi-polar ingredients called – passion and dispassion. Let us examine both:

Passion for a kick-start:

Having a strong purpose

Employees can have several external drivers to propel them to act and achieve. One key emotional trigger that drives them to get started is having a strong purpose or having a clear goal. Viktor Frankl, an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist as well as a holocaust survivor, in his work ‘Man’s search for meaning’, states that the very central theme of existence is having a purpose in life. It is not the physically stronger ones but the ones with strong purpose to live that survived the holocaust.

It becomes the responsibility of the L&D function to help every employee see the link between the outcome of an L&D initiative, its impact on employees’ quality of work, their personal growth, and their larger purpose in life. Helping them see the link will encourage them to take full charge of themselves; make them accountable for their learning outcomes and their personal growth. And this will make learning stick, much to the organization’s benefit.

Dispassion to sustain:

Dispassion is a mind-set of neutrality and objectivity which helps us build will power and persistence

Will power & persistence

Think about how many times you've set a goal and, for one reason or another, never followed it through because of lack of willpower or self-control. It's happened to all of us, and we probably felt disappointed that we didn't achieve what we wanted.

One of the key components of personal leadership as stated by Daniel Goleman is – ‘Will Power’ - ‘the ability to control oneself and determine action’ (a strong determination that allows you to do something difficult – such as to lose weight or quit smoking) and this is quite opposite to Passion, which is ‘ Strong and barely controllable emotions’.

For many of us, willpower comes in short bursts and is often strongest when we first decide to make a change. We need to capture these moments and lay a strong foundation by bringing in thoughtful rational motives alongside. For example, if your goal is to lose weight the emotional motive that urges you to act immediately could be - to look good, as this is emotional it is likely to fluctuate if gratification is not immediate, while the rational motive could be - to stay fit and healthy and come up with more realistic and long term expectation which you can thoughtfully program into your subconscious mind.

Good news is that we can grow our will power - like a muscle, over time the more we use it, the more it gradually increases. But doing this takes, of all things, will power!


Strong will power enables persistence. It is the ‘never say die attitude’ that makes a winner!! Whether it be, Prime Minister, Winston Churchill’s striking words, ” To be successful in life and business - never, ever, ever, ever give up” when he addressed the students’ at the Harrow school on 29th October 1941 or be it the words of the tennis player, Bjorn Borg, “My greatest point is my persistence, I never give up in a match. However down I am, I fight till the last ball”. Seemingly passionate words have in-depth qualities of dispassion too – As the underlying meaning is to keep going till the end while no outcome is guaranteed.

Points to ponder:

While it may be the responsibility of us in the L&D function to develop employees, it is imperative that we adopt ways to urge our employees to have a purpose in what they do; help them see the link between organizational success and their personal success.

As the employees see this link and feel enabled to take decisions for their growth, there will be a new culture of a magical fusion between passion for a kick start and a dispassionate strong will to sustain, leading to their individual growth, where the organizational growth becomes an inevitable bi-product!

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Topics: Learning & Development

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