Enthusiasm a leadership quality

“I know of no single formula for success. But over the years I have observed that some attributes of leadership are universal and are often about finding ways of encouraging people to combine their efforts, their talents, their insights, their enthusiasm and their inspiration to work together.”     Queen Elizabeth II

One of my clients some years ago, on arrival in England, with very little knowledge of English was told by one of his friends, “In order to be successful at getting a job you need to show enthusiasm”. What’s this “enthusiasm he thought?” and went away to find out.

Dictionary.com defines “enthusiasm” as “Absorbing or controlling possession of the mind by any interest or pursuit; a lively interest”.  “Keen interest, excitement.”

The word “enthusiasm” comes from Greek, meaning possessed by God’s essence, divine influence, inspiration. It has a history of being “confined to religious inspiration or intense religious fervor or emotion”.  In the 16th and 17th centuries there were several Protestant sects who were called “Enthusiasts”.  After the Glorious Revolution between 1688-1689 the reigning king, James II was replaced with the joint monarchy of his protestant daughter Mary and her Dutch husband, William of Orange. This was the point in British history when parliamentary supremacy was established over the crown, thus beginning the path to a parliamentary democracy.  “Enthusiasts” become a term of advocacy for any political or religious cause in public, a form of fanaticism.  It was this level of enthusiasm that was seen as the cause of the English Civil War in 1700, and all the related atrocities.  Consequently, Royal Society Bylaws stipulated that any person discussing religion or politics at a Society meeting was to be summarily ejected for being an “enthusiast”. 

What was my client’s friend saying?  Skills are not enough, they are not the only thing that employers look for when recruiting to fill a vacant position.  Enthusiasm is no substitute for experience, intelligence or skills, but when added to these qualities enthusiasm creates the difference between you and the next person.

Enthusiasm as a leader is a person who is driven by his or her passion to excel at what they do.  Enthusiasm fuels achievement both of the leader him or herself as well as individuals in the team and the team as whole.  Enthusiasm drives self-confidence, a positive outlook, and a contagious atmosphere that others want to be part of, and are sad to leave.

Enthusiasm is a choice, you choose to either express it about something or not.  However, when choosing to express enthusiasm you reap the benefits of personal success of loyalty from others, a passion in others to follow you, drive, commitment and achievement.

Donald Trump in a recent speech said:

“We have to straighten out our country; we have to make our country great again, and we need energy and enthusiasm.”

Are there any downsides to enthusiasm or is it all positive?  Having a passion and following that passion with enthusiasm is positive, however the down side of this might be that enthusiasm for a cause, might warp judgment, thus leading into a situation that is undesirable, perhaps unproductive and even down right ignorant, until it is too late to see what we have created, where we have ended up, and more importantly that we did not listen to those around us and blindly steamed ahead, putting both ourselves and others at risk.

Let me leave you with one more thought, a quote from Bo Bennett, a businessman:

“Faked enthusiasm is worse than bad acting - it is bad acting with the intent to deceive.”




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