Chip Bell

Confident Leaders Display Their Passion (Chip Bell)

Winning Well Connection

We’ve enjoyed getting to know Chip over the years and are so inspired by his passionate approach to creating a great customer experience. He truly understands the importance of Winning Well not just with employees but with customers as well.

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Larry Smith lost it! And of all places, he lost it in the big-deal quarterly leadership meeting. He absolutely went over the edge in his impassioned plea for some issue around a key customer. No, he didn’t cry; although he did wipe his eyes before his cheeks got streaked. No, he didn’t pound the table; although he did demonstrate a few gestures that would be the envy of any aspiring thespian.

But, what Larry did do in his “out of control” passion clearly crossed all normal bounds of rationality and routine boardroom decorum. And yet, he engaged the hearts … and commitment … of every single person in the leadership meeting. People were truly moved. And, it did make a difference. Stuff happened!

The “Larry loses his cool” incident led me to reflect on the true meaning of leadership. I thought about how much the land of being “confidently in charge” contained artifacts of control, rationality, logic and “keeping your cool.” I thought about how little these sensible artifacts had anything to do with inspiring spirit in any context of life.

People do not brag about their rational marriage, their reasonable hobby, or their sensible vacation. There is rarely “in control” behavior when Junior is rounding third base or Julie “sticks” her dismount. Exhortations of ecstasy are never restrained on the fishing bank when the cork suddenly disappears and with surprising force. But, somehow all that Larry-like spirit is an unwelcome distraction after the time clock is passed. And, the closer one gets to mahogany row, the less tolerance there seems to be for “sounds of the heart.”

I thought about how freeing it was for everyone in that room when “Larry lost his cool.” Were we uncomfortable? Yes! Did we wonder “Where the hell is this going?” Yes! But, we all felt momentarily in kinship with real life. Julia Roberts echoed the Larry theme in Steel Magnolias when, as a courageous diabetic expectant mother facing the life-threatening potential of giving birth, said: “I’d rather have thirty minutes of wonderful than a lifetime of nothing special.”

Great leaders are not rational beings … they are spirit carriers. They passionately “give birth” in the face of threatening circumstances. The biography of almost every great leader who ever faced the potential of bodily harm accompanying his or her cause communicates a consistent theme:  “Why we were there played so loud in my ear I never really heard what might happen because we were there.” Passion played and leaders put issues like “in control” on some emotional back burner. We know Larry. And, Larry is not an irrational, illogical person. Yet, somehow, that day we trusted his passion more than his reason.

“Whoa!” you say. We can’t have the chaos of unbridled emotion. What would the stockholders say? After all, is it not the role of a leader to bring forth a sense of “grace under pressure,” or “order when all around you is losing their head?” Should leaders not strive to be more anchor than sail? More rudder than oar?

“No!” We have missed the boat on what it means to be a confident leader. The organization, the marketplace, and the situation offer far more “predictable” than is predictably required. The truth is rationality oozes from the seams of every business encounter. Leaders do not have to bring order, sanity, rationality or logic. Every dimension of business life reeks with those qualities. Sane leaders foster insane passion.

Great leaders call up in each of us a visit to the raggedy edge of brilliance and the out-of-the-way corner of genius. When we feel inspired … incensed … ennobled …we have visited the magical realm of passion. We typically return from that realm renewed, revitalized … and slightly revolted. And, when a leader has had a hand in that visit, there is a sense of security married to an otherwise solitary search.

Passion takes the plain vanilla out of encounters. Philosopher Goethe called it “boldness” and said: “Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin in boldness. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. The moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves, too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred.”

Today’s followers need passionate connections from leaders who come soaring from the heart to awaken boldness. It builds a relationship platform that raises everyone to a higher level. Imposing mountains are climbed, culture-changing movements are started, and breakthrough miracles are sparked by leaders who take the governors off rationalism and prudence, letting their confident spirit ascend from within.

Winning Well Reflection

We hear all the time from leaders around the world who wish their teams would “put their heart into it.” If you’ve ever wistfully wondered where your team’s passion is, Chip offers you a fantastic look at where that igniting force comes from. In order for your people’s heart to be in what they’re doing – they’ve got to see yours. Be real, be authentic, and let us know why it matters.

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