Why good leaders should embrace strong personalities

Opinions of contributing entrepreneurs are their own.

Years ago I had a fierce disagreement with an employee. He was an old employee who was several steps below me on the org chart. He was prone to strong opinions and passionate feelings, but he was also an extraordinary performer in the organization and someone I was personally very fond of.

While he was usually right in his opinion, he sometimes lacked a strategic view of the issues and did not always accept when he was wrong. This “lively discussion” was the result of one of those “non-acceptances” that took place in a public place and was overheard by many other staff members. The conversation was confrontational and some people around us were clearly a little uncomfortable.

Afterwards, several members of staff approached me and wondered if this moment of public insubordination meant I should fire him. When I told them there would be no disciplinary action, but that he and I would discuss it later to reach an agreement, they looked confused. As a CEO, why should I let a staff member argue with me and not fire him right away? The answer is simple: it is easier to temper passion than to inspire. If you want excellence, you need people with strong personalities!

Related: 6 steps for hiring the right people to build effective teams

Organizations are just a collection of people and things. Organizational success is the collective sum of individual successes. As a leader, our job is to leverage 100% of each team member’s potential talent. We need to focus on individually building each team member into the best they can be, which requires them to feel safe to speak their mind, comfortable speaking truth to power and supported to make a difference time to time exceed the limits of their skills. This will not happen if we suppress people’s opinions or break their courage by enforcing compliance. Instead, it comes from individual responsibility, commitment to the shared mission, and risk-taking.

Simply put, in a business context, passion is an essential ingredient for greatness. It could be the essential ingredient. Yet passion is almost impossible to inspire; it must arise organically from the depths of the people who are committed to their mission. Passionate people are often obsessed with small details; they are constantly looking for a better way; they are often frustrated with others and are usually a nuisance to their leaders. They are also the company’s top performers and centers of creation and excellence for the organization.

Unfortunately, many leaders see these traits as signs of a difficult personality and become frustrated. They find these people difficult to control, argumentative, and sometimes even disrespectful or disobedient. Unfortunately, in many business environments, these people are marginalized, disciplined, or even fired. Passion is destroyed in favor of obedience. Leadership encourages conformity through words and actions with a view to producing an obedient, homogeneous “team” in which everyone plays nice and does what they are told. This is a bit like throwing away all the sharp knives in your kitchen to avoid hurting yourself or others. While you’re safer, you’ll also end up with a drawer full of spoons!

Exceptional people are creative, inventive and smart. They are different from the norm. They are extraordinary. Often they are exceptional because of their passion for what they do and their willingness to challenge authority. As a result, they usually stick out in a sea of ​​mediocrity and are sometimes unwilling to follow the herd. Of course, this can make them a bit of a handful. However, it’s important to realize that this reluctance to do what everyone else is doing is what makes them great. They have no allegiance to tradition or authority for their own good. They will make you and your team better!

Related: How to Keep Employees Passionate About Their Work

This doesn’t mean it’s okay to be rude, disobedient, or destructive to organizational morale. On the contrary, a good working environment and discipline are very important. It’s great to argue your points and challenge the thinking of others. But having said that, it is not Okay being mean, rude or disrespectful in the process.

This is a very thin line to walk and can be challenging to interpret. As a result, leaders must give their team the benefit of the doubt and adopt a “teach, don’t beat” mentality. We must encourage our passionate people. But at the same time, we need to help them express their ideas and fuel their challenges in a way that provokes thought, not anger.

Exceptional organizations are the result of extraordinary people. As leaders, it is essential that we spend time nurturing people’s passion for their work. We should encourage them to think outside the box, not be discouraged by failure, and encourage them to take risks.

We have to pick them up and dust them off when they fall. Above all, we need to understand that the fire that drives them sometimes makes them challenging to lead, and that they occasionally cross the line and need correction. But we have to make sure we don’t break their spirit. Their strong personality will make them, and the organization, outstanding!