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The Passion-Emotion Continuum
by Sloan Campbell


One of the most frustrating, and often abused, facets of today's business environment is distinguishing between Passion and Emotion when handling internal or external business decisions - or as I refer to it The Passion-Emotion Continuum.

Both of these conscious behaviours are equally important in most business decisions, the key is to apply them in their correct proportions.

Webster's Dictionary defines Emotion as: "the affective aspect of consciousness, a state of feeling; a psychic and physical reaction (as anger or fear) subjectively experienced as strong feeling and physiologically involving changes that prepare the body for immediate vigorous action." Similarly, Webster's defines Passion as: "the emotions as distinguished from reason; intense, driving, or overmastering feeling or conviction; an outbreak of anger." If Webster defines these behaviours in an almost interchangeable manner, then what hope do we have in separating them or identifying these behaviours properly ?

In my opinion, the answer is we shouldn't even try - for the simple reason that their balance is so intricate that they will make each other stronger if left to develop…. Passion in business demands Emotion and Emotion in business demands Passion.

Over the last 25 to 50 years of business, expressing emotions has been considered unprofessional, a breaking of the cardinal business rule if you will, with the underlying belief being that the release of emotions in day-to-day business dealings makes the endeavour less effective, less productive. I see no evidence of this in today's high profile business deals, in fact, some of the most notable business people of the last ten years are the most emotional people I have ever watched or read about - Mark Cuban, Jack Welsh & Michael Dell to name a few.

The fact of the matter is that the concept of releasing emotions in business (or combat) to ensure success has been around since the beginning of modern time. To our detriment, we have just chosen to suppress it - to be more stoic in nature. Almost 2000 years ago Sun Tzu - The Art of War (one of the greatest strategists the world has ever known) said "the clever combatant imposes his will on the enemy, but does not allow the enemy's will to be imposed on him"- pure Emotion, Passion, Will.

No business person should ever feel guilty for showing their emotions while doing their job because chances are their emotions are directly related to something much more powerful - their Passion.

Passion in business is loving what you do, wanting to win in every situation no matter how small. If you subscribe to the idea that business is a game, similar to monopoly, and that winning means gaining riches (i.e. money or property) and losing means losing riches - then winning can easily be equated to loving what you do, which can in turn be linked to being passionate about your work (i.e. winning = loving what you do = passion or passion = loving what you do = winning). Further to this point, if winning isn't important in today's business environment then why do we keep score by tabulating the riches of each company to see which is superior (or better) compared to other companies - the answer is, winning is important !! Finally, if people inherently like winning and dislike losing (i.e. nobody likes or wants to be a loser), doesn't this innate desire to be a winner make each person passionate about their work or their business needs (again, winning = loving what you do = passion) - I would say yes.

If you are having trouble buying into this whole idea, then at a minimum, you must acknowledge the fact that the successful combination of these two behaviours has spawned such powerful business concepts as Emotional Intelligence, the single largest key to success at the executive level of business.

No business person should ever feel guilty for showing their passion while doing their job because chances are their passion is directly fuelled by something equally powerful - their Emotions.

Please do not misconstrue this article as my vote for anarchy, the uncontrolled emotional outbursts that are nothing but disruptive to the entire business process - it is not. What I am really interested in relaying is the need for a better understanding of the Passion-Emotion Continuum.

As a program manager, I am often reined-in for saying what is on my mind (often exactly what is on my mind) under the guise that I am being too emotional. My problem with this is that there seems to be a huge void in many peoples ability to distinguish between emotion and passion for one's chosen career. The simple fact is that I hate to lose and it frustrates me to work with people who don't work the same way (the likely root-cause of saying what is exactly on my mind). I thought Mark Cuban summed it up perfectly in an article on The Mark Cuban Weblog in which he said, "I'm about as competitive as they come. I hate to lose in anything I do. I love to work with people who hate to lose. I want to be around people who get sick and can't sleep when things don't go well. People who won't go to sleep until problems are solved." This is in no way emotionally driven alone, it is passion fuelled by emotion - a very powerful tool in business today.

My final thought on the continuum is that managers and executives, in all organizations, need to be able to better identify and help develop the Passion-Emotion Continuum instead of stifling its implications - after all, utilizing the continuum is very likely how they got to be where they are today.


Webster's On-line Dictionary:

The Mark Cuban Weblog:

Emotional Intelligence:


The Author


Sloan Campbell is a Program Manager at ELCAN Optical Technologies. ELCAN Optical Technologies (ELCAN) is a world photonics leader specializing in the design and manufacture of complex, precision opto-mechanical and electro-optical systems and subsystems for projection display, medical, industrial, automotive, defence, entertainment and telecommunications markets.

Many more articles in Authenticity in The CEO Refresher Archives
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Copyright 2005 by Sloan Campbell. All rights reserved.

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