Leadership Tools: Purpose and Passion, Feedback and Subtlety

Posted Friday, March 8, 2013

Allen Slade

The most effective leaders adapt to the situation, but they are driven by their own purpose and passion. You can stumble by being inflexible. You can stumble if circumstances drive you.  The best leader will balance openness to feedback with constancy of purpose.

How do you balance adaptability with purpose and passion? One example is the leadership tool of matching meeting demeanor.

Matching Meeting Demeanor (smaller size)

As you match the four aspects of meeting demeanor (energy, concepts or data, emotional or rational persuasion, decisive or open-ended), you need purpose and passion, feedback and subtlety.

Purpose and Passion

Filter Thru Purpose and PassionAs a leader, your purpose sets your direction. Your passion energizes your actions. Your purpose and passion should filter everything you do, including your meeting demeanor.

In a meeting at Microsoft, a vice president, my boss and I were synced up on meeting demeanor. We had medium energy and we were looking at concepts, rationally and decisively. Then, we discussed “what would happen if” we were asked to violate employee confidentiality. Because of my passion for confidentiality, I immediately switched demeanor. I went high energy and made an emotional argument. In other words, I threatened to quit. The meeting quickly broke up,  my boss high-tailed it down the hall and I was left standing outside the VP’s office.

The VP apologized the next morning, and I was never asked to compromise my standards. But, even if I had lost my job over this outburst, my passion for confidentiality is so strong that I would have been content with my actions.


Leaders have to balance constancy of purpose with openness to feedback. To be effective, you need feedback on your impact.

Feedback on Your DemeanorIf you have no awareness of others’ meeting demeanor, you will usually not be very effective. If you take a quick snapshot of energy, data vs. concepts etc., at the beginning of the meeting, you will be more effective.

But, just like video is richer than still photos, you want to have continuous feedback on your meeting impact. Watch their body language, voice tone, and what they say to see if you are truly matching up your demeanor.

Match, Don’t Mimic

The wise leader will adjust meeting demeanor directionally to fit the demeanor of others, but not to excess. I suggest matching at a level of 80% to 120%.

  • If the other person has much higher energy than you, adjust your energy to 80% of theirs. If they are much lower energy, adjust your energy to 120% of their energy.
  • If they are all about concepts, don’t skip the data slides in your presentation. Just touch them lightly and move on.
  • If they are absolutely decisive, match their drive to decide, but reserve the right to request a future meeting to follow up on the issue. If you request followup decisively, they are likely to say yes.

Bottom line: Your impact is magnified by matching the meeting demeanor of others in the room. Filter your actions through your purpose and passion. Get instant feedback by observing how your demeanor is impacting the others. And be subtle – match demeanor, don’t just mimic behavior. Then, your meeting influence will grow as the people around you respect your adaptable leadership.

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