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How Serving Passions Can be the Voice of Reason

Leaders who rely on reason alone are holding themselves back


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“Reason is, and ought to be, the slave of the passions and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them.”
—Thomas Hume

Hume’s use of the word “passions” is currently thought to mean “desires.” As a guy who favors thinking over feeling in decision-making (If you’re a Myers Briggs fan, I have a strong preference for T versus F), I force myself to think in terms of desires (passions) in addition to reason to make good decisions, think better about business strategy and better serve my clients.

It behooves all CEOs to use reason when crafting plans to execute strategy (Where do we play, and how do we win?), but they must consider desires when they try to identify how they profitably serve a specific market.

If this sounds professorial or reasoned, add some passion. Discover what makes the decision-makers in your chosen market happy, fulfilled and joyous and what feeds their soul and makes them look good, and you’ll sell a lot of product. Steve Jobs was the master of this.

Have you ever sat in an expensive automobile in a showroom and had a salesperson say something like, “Man, you look good in that car!” Or, perhaps you’ve tried on an expensive suit at a high-end clothing store and had the salesperson exclaim, “You look amazing in that suit!” It works because it appeals to our desires.

Superman can stop a speeding bullet, but he cannot resist the passion of a compliment.

People in leadership roles who rely on reason alone are fighting with one hand tied behind their back. Leadership is about driving change and fostering alignment. Any great cause has been driven by passion more than alignment. Politicians know this — sometimes to our detriment. Business leaders should also know it. Whether focused externally on customers or internally on the team, marry passion and reason if you want to move the organization.

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Todd Ordal

Todd Ordal is president of Applied Strategy®. Todd helps CEOs achieve better financial results, become more effective leaders and sleep easier at night. He is a former CEO and has led teams as large as 7,000. Todd is the author of Never Kick a Cow Chip On A Hot Day: Real Lessons for Real CEOs and Those Who Want To Be (Morgan James Publishing, 2016). Connect with Todd on LinkedIn, Twitter, call 303-527-0417 or email todd@toddordal.com.

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