A student of mine once made the important distinction that “you drive passion whereas emotion drives you”.

One of my mistakes in business was using the word passion as a convenient excuse for an emotional response. Instead of stepping back and logically analyzing a particular situation, I would often wind up making an emotional response. Afterwards someone would say “wow … you seem to be passionate about that”. Although people want to be lead by a passionate person, most importantly, they want that person to be in control of their emotions.

There were times when I composed myself in not making an emotional response and each time it was a painful experience. Yes painful! Because I rationalized my emotional responses as passionate responses, I didn’t realize I should even be changing my behavior. It wasn’t until we sold our company and I was able to step back through teaching and writing that the emotional mistakes I made became clearer to me.

I think we must first recognize that the essential ingredient to changing a behavior is going through the effort of practice. Most everyone knows that anything you want to get better at requires practice. With all difficult practice, whether physical or mental: “no pain, no gain”.

We can either embrace the pain of practice or we can make excuses and rationalizations.  My rationalization was equating an emotional response to a passionate response.

By embracing and practicing the act of emotional self control, we can ultimately become stronger leaders and set a good example for the people around us.