Six Questions for Leaders Who Have Lost Their Passion at Work

My leader clients frequently talk about the frustration, angst, and fear they experience due to changes they face in their organizations. I recall a discussion with a mid-level executive that was about to be put in a new position with fewer resources and seemingly overly ambitious revenue growth goals.

“It’s a sure recipe for failure”, she assured me. “It is impossible for me to be successful under these conditions.”

She was feeling a great sense of grief over leaving the team she had led for the past few years, and a sense of bitterness about the company’s new direction.

“It is as if we are losing our heart and soul and focused only on money,” she lamented.
“I know we are in a business to make money,” she assured me. “But we need people’s hearts to be involved in order to get there.” She was referring to her own.

Her comment made me reflect on something I have been observing in organizations for years now. Leaders are being asked to do more and more with fewer resources and team members. As organizations become leaner and leaner due to realignments and budget reductions, more effort and time is expected from their leaders. The reward is the “development opportunity” you glean from the experience and the privilege to have a decent paying job in this economy. If you are not willing to make the extra effort and invest the extra time to make the situation work, then there will certainly be someone else who will. It seems like a grind.

Somewhere in the midst of experiencing this seemingly new reality, you lost the passion you brought to the table. You lost the connection to the people and the purpose that made all the effort worthwhile. Somewhere along the way, you lost your heart at work. The passion that makes it all worthwhile.

What does passion for what you do have to do with it anyway?

Ever try to have a relationship with someone or do something when your heart wasn’t in it? You can go through the motions and do what’s expected of you out of obligation, but something always seems to be missing. The spark, passion, and excitement you feel when you are looking forward to doing something or seeing someone is missing. The willingness to go the extra mile is missing. The “I can’t wait to get out of bed to do that” anticipation is missing. The satisfaction you get when you know what you are doing is contributing to something noble or purposeful just isn’t there. And in the end, when your heart isn’t in it, you aren’t fully contributing or engaged. You just do things because you have to.

And so do your employees.

Is your heart missing in the work you are doing?
Do your employees feel like you lack real passion and are just going through the motions to get things done?
Are you really engaged and excited about what you are doing on a daily basis?

Perhaps it’s time to ask yourself these questions:

1. Am I defining myself as a victim of my perceived circumstance?

Situations come and go. Who you are as a leader is enduring and is not dependent on any particular circumstance. Don’t let the circumstance define who you are. Revisit your core values and what you stand for as a leader. Are you being true to that and acting according to what is most important as a leader?

2. Am I expecting my situation to change before I engage?

Sometimes we think if we just lay low and wait for something to change or pass, we can just wait it out. When things get better, we will re-engage. And we wait and wait and time passes. We get used to being disengaged and resemble the walking dead in some ways. Are you going through the motions rather than making the most of every moment you are here? Are you waiting to be “rescued” from your circumstance by someone else?
Leaders don’t wait and just react–they work to create and shape the circumstances.

3. What is the ultimate price you are paying?

Operating from a place of disengagement and lack of passion has consequences. What are the consequences to you? To your employees? To your organization?

4. Who are you waiting for to lead you?

Anyone can lead when things are easy. But how can you lead others when you can’t lead yourself when things are tough?

5. Are you making the most of every moment regardless of circumstance?

Each and every moment you are here presents you with a choice. You can live it fully or you can let it pass while you are waiting for better ones in a distant different circumstance. What are YOU choosing to do? Remember, your responses and actions are your choice.

6. Are you ready to reclaim your heart and passion?

What will it take to engage your heart every day? What would happen if you stood up and modeled the leadership behaviors you were waiting for? What if you brought your whole heart to each and every day and into every moment you were in? What if you approached every transaction and every person with total focus and excitement? What do you think would happen?

And finally, WHO are you choosing to be? Are you a victim or a hero?