How to lead “Passionate” people

(Guest Author Tim Harris  for Real. Simple. Leadership.)

In my role as a Product Leader, I have the privilege to work with extremely talented product and engineering team members on a daily basis. In my experience, those that have a passion for the product they are working on are many times more effective than equally talented but less passionate team members. It’s important to note that when I say “passionate” I am aware that passion is displayed in many different ways.


Passion is a mystery to many leaders and one that many tend to avoid by saying “people either have it or they don’t.” I personally believe passion is controllable (in many circumstances) even though it is not something you can simply instill as a leader.

To me “controlling” passion is about creating an environment that fosters it and selecting the correct people to work in it.  There is a lot of talk about office environments, management structures, incentives, team dynamics, and the list goes on. All of these items are important but to me it’s all about passion. Another way to look at it is that passion is an outward representation of a truly proactive employee.

Leading and managing proactive employees is rewarding on many levels. You look great because your team performs so well but also these employees are actively looking for your guidance and support.

I am blessed to be a leader in a product organization where the roles require a proactive employee. You simply will not succeed in product management if you are not a self-starter and energized by what you are doing.

4 Steps in Leading Passionate Team Members:

  1. Understand what and why they are passionate.  It may be about the art of product management or it could be all about user experience or the product itself or a million other things. Take the time to figure it out.
  2. Set a vision and get out of the way.  Passionate employees need room. Don’t over manage. Stay in the loop so they have the air cover and backing they need but let them guide the ship.
  3. Help them succeed holistically. Never take your eye off what they want both short and long term. Help them by identifying projects or accomplishments they can work toward inside and outside their specific job function.
  4. Pay them fairly. Do not ever haggle over a few thousand dollars. Pay them fairly and never make promises you cannot deliver on. If possible financially reward them for their proactive actions.

Tim HarrisTim Harris is Vice President of Product at RizePoint.

Tim leverages nearly 20 years of cloud-solution product leadership to drive RizePoint’s industry-defining products. Harris joins RizePoint from inContact, where he was Vice President, Product Management and Principal Product Owner. There, he was responsible for ensuring the coordination and continued creation of a unified cloud platform. Prior to this, he was instrumental in the product development workflow for inContact in his roles as Sr. Director of Product Management, Sr. Director of Cloud Ecosystem, and Director of Cloud Solutions. Harris holds two patents related to Business Communication and Call Routing


Twitter: @mitharris