When Harry met Sally

Passion is an over used word in local government especially in job interviews. Candidates for management posts are always "passionate" about the service, passionate about empowering staff/ citizens, passionate about choice, passionate about quality, passionate about equality but mostly just passionate. But do you need to be so passionate, is it enough to be a competent professional ? Must a manager be passionate to be thought of as a leader? Is passion a prerequisite for successful leadership? And can you tell if they are faking it?
In the current austerity climate where managers are required to reduce services, restrict choice impose change, rebalance quality and cost, "passion " is measured by the energy and enthusiasm demonstrate for the change agenda, the transformation process, the restructuring. In short your perceived commitment to the cause.a
How can a senior manager be passionate about in house services and with a change of political leadership be passionate about outsourcing  services? 
Leaders respond to challenges. Whatever the challenge they can get energised and enthusiastic about meeting it, whats more they can get others energised and enthusiastic. 
If your unconvinced about the benefits of the new structure, if you don 't believe the efficiency savings can be achieved, if you don't think the time scales are realist why should those tasked with delivering it? The demonstration of passion is an essential prerequisite for leadership so if your not feeling it fake it.
Managers can become cynical  about polices which seem to be more concerned with political ideology than consumer interest, changes which seem to be finance driven rather that practise led but if they are professional they will try hard to make it work. 
The difference between managers and effective leaders is managers don't always own the agenda they say things like " the board has decided", "the senior management team wants this done" or " the chief executive expects". Leaders always make it personal, "I am committed to this", "I believe we can do it", "I believe we can make this work" , some say do it for me ,some say do it because it is the right thing to do and some say just do it but all our convincing in that it can and will be done. 
 Senior managers are expected to have leadership qualities to be able to explain what the future will look like and how "we" will get there. In private they may share the cynicism of their staff but they are required to be optimistic, enthusiastic and "passionate" so if they don't feel it they fake it.  If they're any good then like in that famous restaurant scene from When Harry met Sally you'll never know.
Blair McPherson former director ,blogger and author www.blairmcpherson.co.uk

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Andrew Thomas 4 Years Ago
Only a sociopath would get passionate about reducing the staff under them? Passion for local government is the single thing that needs to be seen in an interview, not a passion for the role they are about to take on. Roles change, the premise of local government does not, or should not. If you're passionate about local government and making it work, then you'll realise that change is integral to that, but the end-result should be that your community is benefitting from your decisions and actions. I think this element is missing in many local authorities where people have been 'empire-building' in senior positions, and losing sight of the bigger picture. I agree there is a need for a high-level of management, but those managers need to stop being careerists. So many times I see managers make decisions that have big impacts on their communities and not once have they asked the community what they want, or thought about what they need. Local government is failing in this country because of the cult of managers/directors from the last 15 years. It's far, far too easy to make a mess of something in one place and then jump ship and emerge with an equally important position in another authority. It's very easy to 'fake it' in an interview and mask your deficiencies, because you list manager friends as referees in your applications, and in many cases you're using a network of managers to secure another managerial role. I, for one, am utterly fed up with the cult of managers in local government, and indeed in the NHS and further afield. It's a back-scratching society of well-dressed people swinging from vine to vine in the public sector, and leaving a trail of restructures and disaster.