Start with passion. Be passionate. Sustain your passion through hard times. But, be attentive to turning points. Turning points instantly converts the virtue of passion into its evil opposite, managerial ego.

Business leaders, owners or managers, are familiar with the advice that a sense of deep passion and full commitment is necessary to make a business succeed. Yet, though passion is necessary, all too often there are important turning points that affect the business model which, if ignored, result in disaster.

Some turning points: new competition, discovery that the initial market research was incomplete or incorrect, the market opportunity devolves into something much smaller, geo-political or other events change factors that affect the opportunity or costs of business, the technology is inadequate and can not be practically extended or modified to meet current market needs, and so on.

I’ve watched a number of businesses fail because its leaders/owners failed to understand passion and how to apply it. Though almost everyone understands what passion is and that a business leader must be passionately committed to the business, the danger lurks when passion transitions into managerial ego. The danger arises when the leader becomes so fixated on a direction in the name of being passionately committed that turning points are ignored. I’ve seen this happen in just about every aspect of leading and managing, in small businesses and within large corporations.

In a small business, the business model might be bad at the outset, but the owner fails to acknowledge it for the sake of being passionately committed, almost to the point of bragging about such deep passion. In large corporations, I’ve witnessed millions of dollars wasted on defunct technologies in the name of focus and instilling more passion in everyone to help make the bad technology succeed. Instead, both are examples of the phenomenon that management consultant, Peter Drucker, labelled as “managerial ego”.

Managerial ego can be defined as pressing forward in the face of all obstacles out of a misguided sense of passion, or of doing so just because one has the authority, power and resources to do so. “I’m in command so this is the way it is going to be…” Despite the evidence suggesting a need to change.

Granted, once the business model is succeeding, or the technology is proven to be successful and continues to be in demand, passion can, indeed, push a business beyond mediocrity into a rip-roaring phenomenon, or as a leader, one can go from an average performer into an outstanding phenom. Passion applied to successful business opportunities screams of supporting and building even more success. Passion that continues to be applied when a turning point occurs and is consciously or unwittingly ignored, is managerial ego and is destructive.

Watch for tuning points. Watch for that contradictory data that suggests a need to change. Take it seriously. Don’t brush past it with the justificaiton that “I/we must be passionate about…”  Committing resources in one direction when the data is clearly beating one over the head to change is a sign of bad leadership, a sign of managerial ego, not passion. Success comes from not only knowing about passion and managerial ego, but knowing when to successfully apply passion.

Passion fuels a successful business model. Managerial ego disrupts and destroys.