by Steve Adubato, PhD

Passion is a funny thing. You know it when you see it; you know it when you don’t. Passion is one of the keys to great leadership and persuasive communication. If we don’t believe that someone cares deeply, we get a negative feeling.

Consider New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning, who last week threw four interceptions (three returned for touchdowns). But once again, both during the game and in a post-game press conference, Manning seemed to lack any fire or passion that most of us expected to see. This column isn’t about sports, it is about leadership and responding to poor performance in a passionate way, whether on the football field, office or in the board room.

After the game, when Manning was blasted by commentators and pundits and was booed unmercifully by fans, he had the same “it’s just another game” look on his face and said; “Well, it wasn’t good. When you throw four interceptions, it is never a good day...” No kidding. He went on to say he would learn from the experience, which sounds nice, but for many fell woefully short from the kind of passionate communication and leadership we look for in a leader, be it a quarterback or the CEO.

Q—What value is there in Eli Manning, or anyone who screws up, beating himself up in public?

A—It’s not about beating yourself up; it is about communicating clearly that you are not just unhappy with your performance, but you are disgusted by it. You are highly disappointed and angry and you are determined to make sure it doesn’t happen again. That’s what passion is. But we don’t get that from Eli Manning, or if he’s feeling it, he doesn’t communicate it.

Q—But like you said, what if Manning is in fact deeply disappointed in himself, but he just doesn’t communicate it in a demonstrative way?

A—That’s not enough for a leader. You have to show your passion. You can’t keep it to yourself because it is a team effort, in business or sports. How people respond or react to you matters a great deal. We don’t have the luxury in leadership positions to keep things so close to the vest. You MUST communicate!

Q—Conversely what if Manning actually believed everything he said? Or, by his facial expressions, is communicating that he doesn’t believe the matter is so serious?

A—Keeping things in perspective has value. The problem is, when you are getting paid really big bucks and you are performing in the number one media market in the country (the same thing is true of any manager in business who is in the spotlight) you better demonstrate a deep passion for your performance, good or bad. Look, you don’t have to jump up and down like Richard Simmons, but at least you know the guy is passionate. Passion looks different in different people, but like I said, you know it when you see it and you know it when you don’t.

Q—Monday morning quarterbacking is easy on your part. But what exactly should Eli Manning have done or said?

A—First of all, whether intended or not, that expression on his face when he was on the sidelines communicates the wrong message. It would be great if you saw him go up to his teammates with body language that said; “I know I screwed up, but we’re going to come back!” After the game, he should have said something like, “My performance was unacceptable. I’m disappointed, frustrated and I am going to make sure that we bounce back. I’m confident that nothing like this will happen again while I am the quarterback of this team.” That’s passion and leadership. That’s what Eli Manning is missing.