Passion vs. Purpose in Leadership

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Striving towards something is an essential trait for a leader.  The easier the goal, the easier it seems to be for a leader to maintain momentum and effectiveness during any challenges which may pop up along the way.  But what happens when the goal becomes a minefield of obstacles causing delay after delay after delay, frustrating all involved?  In my opinion, that’s when Passion or Purpose become the driving factors keeping the leader motivated to endure those trials until the goal is finally achieved.

For many years, there’s been a running debate about which one is more essential in leadership:  Passion or Purpose?  Timothy McClimon, SVP at American Express, provides valuable insight in into this debate in a recent article on  In the article, he shares that “…leaders need to recognize where they fall on the passion-to-purpose spectrum in order to effectively marshal the resources (and energy) to chart their own paths. As a leader, I tend toward the purpose end of the continuum, but there are many truly inspiring leaders who are driven by passion first.”

In my own leadership experience, I see passion as the energy behind my purpose. I can get a job done in a purposeful way any day of the week, but when you see passion oozing from my purpose, it’s a completely different story. I perform at a much higher level and stay motivated for far longer.  The problem with my passion, however, is that it ebbs and flows based on my feelings.  Purpose, on the other hand is more constant in my life. Therefore, in my opinion, purpose is absolutely essential for my effectiveness, allowing me the freedom to feel passion – or not – as long as I get the job done!

If you’d like to read more about Passion vs. Purpose, check out McClimon’s article here.


If this article was helpful and prompted you with an increased desire to improve your effectiveness as a leader so you can take your team to the next level, contact us to learn more about our Aepiphanni Ascend Leadership Development program.  Fill out the form below and we’ll be happy to schedule a Coffee & Consult to chat in more detail about how we can help.

Kris Cavanaugh Castro is the People Development Coach at Aepiphanni, the trusted advisor for business leaders who are seeking forward-thinking solutions to help them plan for and navigate through the challenges of business growth.  Kris has over 25 years of coaching, training and mentoring leaders to greater success; and she periodically writes about leadership development and facilitates change management conversations.

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