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Exploring the Passion of Leadership

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Lately I have been reading books about famous explorers such as Captain James Cook, David Livingstone, Earnest Shackleton, etc. Each of these men set out into unknown parts of the world in search of knowledge, guided by principles of leadership that are quite similar to those we practice as part of The Leadership Challenge journey at Kaneka.

My most current read is The Explorers: A Story of Fearless Outcasts, Blundering Geniuses, and Impossible Success, written by Martin Dugard in which he examines the explorer as a personality type—from Richard Burton and John Speke, pioneers to discover the source of the Nile to Antarctica explorer Ernest Shackleton.

Dugard’s premise is that these brave explorers from the past share seven common characteristics:
Curiosity, Hope, Passion, Courage, Independence, Self-Discipline, and Perseverance.

Some of these may look familiar and you may agree that these are all valuable attributes of leaders. But, one in particular, caught my eye….PASSION!

The word “passion” comes from the Latin verb patoir which means “to suffer and endure”. And without a doubt, the explorers Dugard features in his book suffered greatly during their journeys.

So, what about the rest of us? We may not be setting out on the type of adventures these explorers did but the question is still appropriate, “Are you passionate about your leadership journey?” Do you remember the basic definition of leadership from Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner: “Leadership is the art of motivating others to want to struggle for shared aspirations.”

Achieving extraordinary things typically requires us to struggle and suffer. When I reflect on my own career there were times that I simply gave up. Perhaps the suffering was too great and the risk too high. Perhaps I did not have the authority to bring about change or could not convince those in authority to take up the charge. On those successful occasions I was able to endure. I think it is about staying true to your personal values and personal vision. Never give up!

Perhaps you might think about your family, your faith, a social cause. What about your followers? Are you willing to suffer and endure hardship for others? Can you sacrifice for them? Remember that leadership is not about YOU, it is about THEM.


Steve Skarke
, a Certified Master of The Leadership Challenge®, is president of The Kaneka Foundation and creator of Leading Elements™. As an “Organizational Engineer” Steve supports the development of internal and external clients through facilitation and coaching activities. A 30-year veteran in the manufacturing industry, he can be reached at steve@leadingelements.com.

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