Why CEOs Need To Give Employees Purpose Through Their Passion

CEO talks about purpose with his employees

During a seven-year run as a president, I learned a lot along the way and got my MBA and Ph.D. by listening to learn and hear versus telling and explaining. Why?

Our HR team had an individual who led the learning and development team and she came to see me one day and asked if I had a minute. And when I did, she said she had good and bad news for me and which did I want to hear first? I said the good news, so she said, “Mike, you have been here a few short months and your leadership team respects your business sense and loves your passion for people and being here.”

I said, “Great, that is good to hear,” yet I was bracing for the bad news.

So she continued. The bad news was, “You are getting compliant leaders on your team but not committed ones because your standards are too high.”

Those last five words stung. "How can standards be too high?" I asked.

She said, "You have not taken time to understand how to MASTER your ability to lead with purpose, have you? People will only trust you as far as you have built trust with them and you don’t spend quality time getting to know and understand your people but when you do you will create followership like you have never experienced. Give people purpose with your passion and then watch what happens."

I took all this in and began to understand that just because I was clear, was everyone else? This is when I started to focus deeply on using purposeful passion as a leader.

What Is "Purposeful Passion" And How Do Leaders Use It?

CEO/leader talks about purpose during a team meetingBigstock

It involves the idea that when individuals pursue work that aligns with their personal values and passions, they are likely to be more engaged, productive, and fulfilled in their roles. Studies show that people’s number one goal at the end of the day is to know they did meaningful work. Yes, the boss matters, as does the pay, but when you dig deep, PURPOSE is key. As a leader, you have to invest time to really understand people at a deeper level and it takes work and commitment and a level of humility but it's well worth it.

3 Ways To Utilize Purposeful Passion As A Leader

CEO/leader talks to an employee at work


As you get more skilled at incorporating purposeful passion into your leadership style, you’ll see lots of opportunities to leverage it. But, if you’re just getting started, here are a few ways to incorporate it into your existing leadership best practices:

1. Find examples of what you want: Share examples of individuals who have pursued work that aligns with their purposeful passion and the positive outcomes they achieved as a result. This could include individuals who started their own businesses, pursued social impact projects, or made career changes to align their work with their personal values.

2. Encourage exploration: Encourage individuals within the organization to explore their own purposeful passions and find ways to align their work with those passions. This could involve offering opportunities for personal and professional development or creating a more flexible work environment that allows individuals to pursue projects that align with their passions.

3. Lead by example: Finally, lead by example. Show your own commitment to purposeful passion by pursuing work that aligns with your values and encouraging others to do the same.

Mastering leadership requires discipline and patience and it isn't for everyone. To build a business beyond you, I would argue requires it. Let me know if you want to discuss this further or debate the thinking above by connecting with me on LinkedIn or by email at As a Vistage Chair, I love connecting with high-integrity, growth-oriented business owners/CEOs who also care deeply about the environment and humanity.

Man on laptop enjoys summer while working full time

There you are: sitting on the beach, covered in sunscreen, reading your favorite book, drinking your favorite drink under the cool shade of an umbrella. Life doesn't get any better than this. Suddenly, a door slams, a phone rings, a printer turns on. You jolt back into consciousness. You're at work, sitting in your cubicle, without even a hint of sunshine streaming in from outside.

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