Controlled Passion


Have you ever been told in the workplace that you're too emotional? Or are you considered low affect and lacking energy? Leaders with executive presence convey passion. We're reminded that passion sells and that leaders need to be persuasive communicators if they expect their teams to follow their lead. So what's the sweet spot? It's like the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. The first soup was too hot, the second soup was too cold but the third soup was "just right". 

Where is the dividing line between passion that conveys gravitas and passion that results in a loss of credibility? The answer is Controlled Passion.  Let's take an example from Hollywood. When the actress Halle Berry was the first African American actress to win an academy award, she delivered an emotional speech. It was an historical moment, a moment wrought with emotion. Her passion was on full display but she became unglued and cried through her speech. This was passion out of control.

When Steve Balmer, former CEO of Microsoft, took the stage, his passion was over the top. It took on a clownish quality, like a bad imitation of a motivational sales rally. His audience may have liked it, but then, he was the CEO. And you know what they say-Rank has It's Privilege. But for anybody else that kind of unbridled passion could be a career killer. It's certainly not the definition of executive presence.

So what is Controlled Passion? Recently, Oprah Winfrey was the first African American woman to receive the coveted Cecil B. Demille Life Time Achievement award. She delivered her acceptance speech amidst the backdrop of the Me, Too movement protesting sexual assault. All the women wore black in solidarity. The stage was set for an emotional explosion but that didn't happen.

Oprah was poised, measured, and passionate. She commanded the stage and began speaking with an even tone. She employed rhetorical techniques of storytelling, self disclosure and word pictures. Her body language was congruent as she literally stood her ground. Verbally, her words clearly depicted the pain of injustice and were punctuated by the gravity of her tone. She masterfully integrated the pause to allow the message to sink into the hearts of the audience. Oprah raised her voice as she culminated with a call to action. With a raised fist, and a louder impassioned tone she called for a time when "Nobody would ever have to say Me, Too."

There were no tears, her movements were not staccato, her pace was not rushed. Oprah owned the room and held her ground. She exuded a power that comes from an inner belief in herself and her message. The message came through her and not from her. And that's controlled passion.