[July 5, 2016] In early 1918, the German armies broke through on the Western Front and appeared ready to destroy much of the French and British armies. With the Allies suffering horrific loses and possibly defeat, French General Ferdinand Foch weathered the storm until American troops arrived in significant numbers. What he recognized more than any other senior leader of the time was that passion in the ordinary soldier would make the difference between victory and defeat.
“The most powerful weapon on earth is the human soul on fire.” – Field Marshall Ferdinand Foch
A major theme in the study of leadership is that passion is an essential trait of leaders. Is passion the leader’s Holy Grail? Yes, I think so. For senior leaders it is fundamental to their ability to guide their organization and is a trait without peer.1 Called by many names and often going under the rubric of having heart in the game, passion is central to the success of all humans. Without it, nothing can be truly accomplished.
Leadership is difficult even under the best of circumstances. So it is no surprise that when the most successful leaders are studied, the advice most given is that you must have a burning desire to do what you’re doing. Anyone can be overwhelmed by challenges at any point and it is only passion – that deep down burning desire – that keeps you going.
“Do something you are passionate about. Something that makes you happy even though you might not make any money. Do that, and provide a good service, and you will grow.” – Woody Lovell, owner The Barbershop Club in Los Angeles
The most winning coaches, the richest businesspersons, the most successful of all leaders know that if you don’t have the will to win – the passion to succeed – you will fail. Passion is a combination of extraordinary ambition and zealous commitment. This is the fuel to do greater things beyond one’s self to accomplish the most difficult of goals. Passion, and only passion, will push you past the basic mechanics of success and place you at the top of your game.
By late fall of 1918, the German army was at the point of disintegration. The war at that time had gone on too long for either side and on November 8 to 11, in a railway carriage at a forest siding near Compiègne France, Foch personally dictated armistice terms to the German delegation.2 He understood that passion was the key to victory and he was the commander who used it well.
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