Do you Need Passion or Purpose in Your Leadership?

Christine M. Riordan
2 min readDec 5, 2018


There is an undeniable tension between passion and purpose. Certain people see passion as the “what” in an individual’s life, while others will say purpose focuses on the “why” an individual chooses to do something. When it comes to being an effective leader, is passion or purpose more important?

The Appeal of Passion and Purpose

Leaders can find value in both passion and purpose. Depending on one’s school of thought, one may be more valuable than the other. For example, Plato holds that it is best to harness one’s dispassion in life, rather than passion. When passion becomes a factor, Plato attests that one needs the adequate discipline and mastery to manage it. These beliefs beg the question, just how important is one’s purpose or passion?

Amidst the search for inner meaning and one’s purpose in life, which matters more? Well, it depends on the context. For a person that is lost in the same routine of their dispassionate office job, finding one’s passion may be seen as a saving grace of sorts.

Others, however often feel that following a passion is a dangerous choice. For these people, passions appear to be fleeting. Contrary to someone that may view a life full of passion to be more encouraging and uplifting than working towards a goal, the responsibility of purpose carries more weight and is more valuable than anything else.

Choosing Between the Two

Is finding success in one’s personal and professional life about choosing either passion or purpose or is it a combination of both? According to philosopher Thomas Nagle, success hinges on an individual’s abilities to be both objective and subjective. Simply put, in order to achieve anything in life, humans need to be driven by an inspiring force in their life.

For some people, this directional guidance can be a true passion, for others, this motivation is found in the responsibility of purpose. While both passion and purpose are noble driving forces in life, one must recognize where their personal strong suits lie on the purpose-or-passion spectrum. This distinction is part of what makes leaders successful.

While it is possible to find a balance between the two, oftentimes, an individual will give more of themselves to either passion or purpose. Passionate leaders can be just as successful as purpose-driven leaders — it’s all a matter of choice.



Christine M. Riordan

Leadership Author|Speaker. President|Adelphi University|New York. Mom to two teenagers|bulldog. Thoughts expressed here are my own.