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Passion Play: Leaders Talk About The Importance of Loving What You Do

Great leaders are passionate. They possess an absolute love for what they do. Apple's Steve Jobs observed, "I don't think of my life as a career... I do stuff. I respond to stuff. That's not a career - it's a life!" Starbucks' Howard Schultz concurred when he said, "When you love something, when you care so much, when you feel the responsibility... you find another gear."

James Duke, of the American Tobacco Company, enthusiastically expressed his passion, when he noted, "I hated to close my desk at night and was eager to get back to it early next morning. I needed no or time off. No fellow does who is really interested in his work."

McDonald's founder Ray Kroc couldn't say enough about his fifteen-cent hamburgers, and Walmart's Sam Walton was equally passionate about the value that Walmart offered to the average person. Both were evangelists for their companies.

Another passionate evangelist was UPS' James Casey. Anyone who knew him understood that. He said, "it just took the right topic to get him excited." And that topic was packages. He loved everything about them - the care that went into their wrapping, the sense of mystery about their contents, the delight in opening them. A 1947 New Yorker profile found him observing a department store's package-wrapping station and waxing enthusiastic - and then some - on the proceedings: "Deft fingers! Deft fingers wrapping thousands of bundles. Neatly tied! Neatly addressed! Stuffed with soft tissue paper! What a treat! Ah, packages!"

Why is passion so important and why does it contribute so much to one's success? Jobs said, "Passion is about our emotional and a love for what we do. Without passion it becomes difficult to fight back in the face of obstacles and difficulties. People with passion find a way to get things done and to make things happen, in spite of the obstacles and challenges that get in the way."

Southwest Airlines' Herb Kelleher stressed the importance of passion when he stated, "When we talk to other people about Southwest Airlines, I always tell them that it's got to come from the heart not from the head. It has to be spontaneous, it has to be sincere, it has to be emotional. I said, 'Nobody will believe it if they think it's just another program that was conjured up for six months time and then you're going to drop it. The power of it in creating trust is that people have to see that you really radiate, that it's a passion with you, and you're not saying these things because you think they are clever or a way to produce more productivity or produce greater profits, but because you really want things to go well for them, individually."

Amazon.com's Jeff Bezos made the following observation about how passion works, and why it motivates so well. "You don't choose your passions, your passions choose you... One of the huge mistakes people make is that they try to force an interest on themselves. If you're really interested in software and computer science, you should focus on that. But if you're really interested in medicine, and you decide you're going to become an Internet entrepreneur because it looks like everybody else is doing well, then that's probably not going to work. You don't choose your passions, your passions choose you. One of the reasons you saw so many companies that were formed in 1998 or 1999 fail is that they were chasing the wave. And that usually doesn't work. Find that area that you are interested in and passionate about - and wait for the wave to find you."

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