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Leadership at the peak

Passion vs Intelligence Quotient

By George W Nyabadza

I WAS recently in a strategy meeting with top executives of a Japanese car manufacturer. The topic of the day was the state of co

mpetition in the South African motor industry.

The topic turned to two top German marques that are acknowledged pace-setters in the industry, one in terms of profitability and long-term value retention (Organisation A) of their products and the other as a definite leader in terms of product performance (Organisation B).

One of the executives in the meeting has worked for both organisations in the past. He said while most people outside of the motor industry would love to be associated with status of Organisation A, the reality of it is that those in the know preferred to work for Organisation B not because they would be paid more but simply because of the passion for the business that exists in that organisation.

Apparently, Organisation B makes it a point to recruit people who are high on the Passion Quotient for cars in general, and specifically for their marque as opposed to the Intelligence Quotient. This is the standard for both technical and administrative people.

For example, a top-notch accountant with no passion for cars would not make the grade in Organisation B even if they graduated sum cum laude and had all the stars behind their name, whereas a medium- rated accountant with a passion for cars and the marque would be embraced into the fold.

In organisation B it’s all about passion for cars, the marque and everything that makes the industry tick. You really need to spend time with the manufacturing or retail people to know what I am talking about. In my usual inquisitive way I cornered the executive in question during one of the breaks and asked him what it is that fostered the passion of excellence within the high performance marque. Of the responses I got, two are worthy of mention here:

The management role

True passion is driven from the top. Where passion exists in the ranks only, it usually fizzles out on its own or cold water is poured on it by an uncaring management. Creating and fostering passion is a leadership function. Organisation B’s leadership is obsessed about cars, their marque and the industry. That’s who they are. In Organisation A there is a detached excellence of knowledge about cars, the marque and the industry but it’s cold and not alive and it doesn’t define them. A good question to ask about your leadership is if they are professional about your business or passionate about it. Within the difference lies the key to success.

The recruitment process

Organisation B emphasises passion for the industry and the marque way above superior academic qualifications. This is embedded in their recruitment process. So an interview will, for the most part, focus on the role of the marque in the industry, product knowledge, and a general understanding of competitors’ products structured around an interactive discussion that enables the interviewee to display their passion and commitment. Make no mistake about it, the work environment is very pressured and demanding and only those with a deeply rooted passion can thrive within it.

The result

The one obvious result of the differences in Passion Quotient of the two organisations is that Organisation B has a high staff retention ratio than the first. It is a well-known fact that their qualified technical people never leave to join another organisation. In fact, they only leave to retire or to start up their own businesses. Why do your people leave your business?

* George W Nyabadza is the CEO of Achievement Success Dynamics International and a consulting partner with Sewells, South Africa.

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