Jim Whitehurst, former COO of Delta Airlines and now president and CEO of Red Hat, a hi-tech company, says there are five ways to cultivate the kind of passion in people that fosters high performance.

Yes, he says, in order to build a great organization leaders have to espouse a purpose that transcends the bottom line. “The best and brightest talent are attracted to organizations that offer a broader purpose. But simply defining a purpose is not enough,” he says.

What sets top-notch organizations apart is passion. “People want to be passionate about what they do, and they want to be surrounded by people who are also passionate about what they do,” he explains.

Whitehurst defines the passionate employee as “someone who pays attention to the whats and the hows of the company’s strategies and tactics, someone who is involved and curious and who constantly questions what the company is doing and their own role in making it successful.

“And they do that not because someone ordered them to, but because they want to. That’s the kind of intrinsic reward today’s workers seek out -- not the lavish perks or financial bonuses that we mistakenly assumed motivated workers of the past.”

That’s good news for every organization that has to watch its dollars – and especially for nonprofits, where revenues are typically always scarce.

The difficulty comes in creating the kind of culture where passion is a hallmark. “Many executives I speak with still confuse engagement with morale, job satisfaction, and even happiness,” Whitehurst says. “Engagement isn’t about being happy. Happy people may or may not be engaged in the business.”

Here are five rules Whitehurst says will help nurture people who are passionate for the organization’s purpose:

  • Let people show their emotions.
  • Hire passionate people.
  • Fan the flames.
  • Don’t sedate your rock stars.
  • Share context.

For a more complete explanation of these five rules, click here.

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