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It is not just the products: visions, sustainability, and passion together with a charismatic demeanour of the management are the key to permanently leading a company to success. And this is passionate leadership.

Numerous examples from the recent past show that the success of empires worth billions often depend on individual personalities. This applies particularly to Apple, Dell, and Starbucks.

These companies were successful with their founders. But after they left or retired from active business, they sometimes drastically lost market share. What these companies also have in common is that they have brought back all of their former CEOs and that Steve Jobs, Michael Dell, and Howard Schultz have brought the companies back to the top of the world.

All three personalities have successfully transformed from founders to CEOs of a billion-dollar company. So the question arises: Why were these businesses worse when these people were not active in the company? Read further to learn from that analysis.

Passionate leadership as a key for success

The three cases have in common that the company vision was lived with heart and passion. But not only that. The leader’s personalities are also characterized by self-criticism, openness to criticism of their products, high-quality standards and the ability to learn from mistakes. If, for example, passion is lacking, the people in the company at first will continue to function. Bit by bit, due to losing vision and creativity the ability is lost to inspire other people. It is the enthusiasm for your own company, your products, and the desire for something new. If it is aligned with your purpose – that makes all the difference. Because this euphoria is automatically and naturally transferred to the employees and the market, all three founders recognized and used this after their return. 

Successful companies in their markets such as those already mentioned. But also top companies from other industries such as Amway Global or Primerica, say of themselves: “We are a personnel development company that manufactures buyable products” or “We are a self-improving system with a compensation plan.”

And the whole trick lies in doing so aligned with a purpose, lead by passionate leadership.

Passionate leadership as a constant ignition of the company vision

The examples show that passionate leadership is the key, making all the difference between success or failure. Many employees identify with a company and therefore want to work there. Often, however, they leave because of the next superior, an incomprehensible corporate strategy, or a lack of vision. Putting them both together provides us with some useful insights.

The visions have a comparison to a company ‘user manual’ or guide. This is especially true when it comes to long-term goals. Long term goals can lead employers astray (such as becoming number one in the market, producing the best products, etc.). A company vision helps to take the right path or the right strategy again. It also helps make the right decisions and build a long-term and stable corporate culture.

The responsibility for the culture lies solely with the management team. Even though it is created with the whole company, the responsibility to lead the culture to develop in the right direction, is one for top management (however hard that might be). It has to develop a vision and live it as a role model. That is where passion, personalities and hearts come into play. This is a very impressively demonstration by the example of Apple. Apple sees its goal in creating the best personal computing experience for students, teachers, creatives, and end customers around the world. They do this through innovative hardware, software, and Internet offerings.

When Steve Jobs was brought back after eleven years, Apple was on the brink of bankruptcy. In his first board meeting – so it is handed down – his first question to the managers was:

 “What is going wrong here?” And immediately, he answered: “It’s the products. So what’s wrong with the products?” He didn’t wait for the answer: “They’re crappy. They are no alluring.”

He followed the goal of developing the best and most attractive products to the end. Admittedly, it was not always pleasant for his employees and partners. But he got the most out of himself, his company, his employees, and his products. This is what passionate leadership is. To take a mission to heart, and lead a company from there, however, way it is working.

The biggest pitfall of passionate leadership: Paradox of success

Passionate leadership also has its risks. The biggest pitfall of passionate leadership is the paradox of success. Due to the success of the leader’s vision, the importance of instrumental rationality increases, causing a narrow mindedness, putting the vision at risk of emptiness. The effective way of thinking always needs to be balanced out by that vision. This process becomes harder and harder, though, due to the omnipresent need for efficiency and effectiveness in a corporate environment. Let me be clear: in itself, that doesn’t need to be a problem. It merely puts the instrumental value of the vision at risk. This pitfall, therefore, brings to mind an essential prerequisite of passionate leadership’s success.

Passionate leadership’s success prerequisite No1: an educated mind

To benefit from passionate leadership, and outgrow the paradox of success, the thought climate of the corporation or organization needs to understand the basic principles of forward-thinking. And the thought leader needs to have a certain level of self-awareness, practical wisdom, and ability to rethink and deepen his or her vision continuously.

In case you are curious about more practices on this matter, because you are dealing with this type of dilemma’s on a daily basis, you are invited to join the Black Sheep Community as a free member. Finding an international community of Forwarding Thinkers evolving through Thought Leadership.