Passion versus Purpose

Miguel Regedor - May 1, 2019
It’s common to hear “find and follow your passion”, it’s a misleading message. Passion is an emotion, a very personal one, that comes and goes. Purpose, on the other hand, is driven by reason.

Those who have a strong sense of purpose and are passionate about their work perform better. But which one of those traits has the most significant impact? As managers and leaders, we have to prioritise, I believe we must focus on purpose over passion.

Many authors write about purpose. In the book “Start with why”, Simon Sinek writes about motivation, the reason for doing something, and how it’s played in the long term. I believe it’s about pursuing something that goes beyond of ourselves. Having a purpose that deemphasises the “I”, while at the same time, gives meaning to it.

Passion is singular, it’s only about the “I”.
Purpose is plural, it’s about the “We”.

When you lead a team, you must make sure people are engaged. That is achieved by cultivating a shared purpose, having everyone on board with “why we do what we do”!

A study by Morten Hansen from the Berkely University of California (from his book “Great at Work: How Top Performers Do Less, Work Better, and Achieve More”) found out that purpose without passion produces way better results than the other way around.

He established metrics to assess: sense of purpose, passion and performance of various individuals. The initial results are not surprising; individuals with both high passion for their work and a strong sense of purpose are in the 80% percentile of top performers:

The surprising results were when comparing the individuals that score high in just one of the characteristics:

Having a sense of purpose clearly has a bigger impact on your performance than simply being passionate about what you do. In fact, being passionate, or not, only has a small short term impact.

If we think it through, it is not such a surprise. Purpose is something that people can share and connect over. How many times in your life have you changed your passions? And how many times have you continued to do something even though it wasn’t always exciting just because you knew it was important for something or someone other than you? Because it was the right thing to do!

There is still the question:

What can I do to engage my team with purpose?

It should start from the top. Show team members the impact of their work. Be vulnerable and share your feelings! Once you’ve proven the impact the company makes in the world, show the team the impact that their work has on the company. Forward thank you e-mails from customers or positive feedback on social media. Why is the team indispensable for the company’s success? Understand and remember individual contributions!

All this may sound hard to put in practice. I could say it isn’t, but actually, it is hard! The communication must be effective and to create memorable moments. This requires effort. However, it’s easy to start! All it takes is to keep answering a simple question: Why does it matter?