Leadership development can focus heavily on technical competencies and management skills. Though these are still salient aspects of becoming a good leader, there is also merit in a more holistic approach. To nurture well-rounded leaders, consider integrating personal passions into learning programs.

Here, we’ll explore how personal interests can be interwoven into leadership skills to produce the most effective leaders of the future.

How Passion Produces Better Leaders

Leaders should be well-versed in their specific industry, but they should also prioritize soft skills and emotional intelligence (EQ). Regardless of field, these are valuable areas of expertise when looking to lead a group or groups of people. The types of skills passions can invoke include:

  • Creative thinking and problem-solving.
  • Stress management techniques.
  • Effective decision-making.
  • Self-awareness and discipline.
  • Social skills.
  • Relationship management skills.
  • Effective communication.

Pursuing personal interests and even enjoying hobbies provide a foundation for learning these types of valuable skills. When people immerse themselves in activities they’re passionate about, they can learn to communicate their preferences, collaborate with others, manage emotions and adapt to various situations. Whether it’s painting, playing music or gardening, these types of pursuits foster empathy, resilience and self-awareness.

Leaders with interpersonal skills like these are far more effective at swaying a group to follow them. They are more likely to engage in active listening and act empathetically, leading to them being perceived as more honest and trustworthy.

Integrating Personal Interests Into Leadership Training

Finding a way to intertwine employees’ interests into leadership is a powerful strategy for nudging them in the right direction. One approach involves investing in team-building activities that are aligned with participants’ passions. By organizing team outings, workshops, retreats or collaborative projects centered around their hobbies, participants can learn to lead where they feel most comfortable and excited.

This provides a fun, stimulating environment that prompts prospective leaders to interact and engage with their peers. This not only strengthens interpersonal bonds but also provides a rewarding space in which they can practice essential leadership skills.

Challenges and Strategies

Introducing personal passions into leadership training can be both rewarding and challenging at times. For example, time constraints can often pose a significant hurdle, especially as participants move into busy leadership roles. It may become difficult to balance hobbies with daily life, especially with their newfound responsibilities and packed schedules. However, carving out time for passions is important to continue building those soft skills. Some strategies for doing so include:

  • Scheduling time purposefully: Leaders can prioritize personal interests by allowing themselves to block out parts of their calendar for activities. This can be reframed in their head as professional growth instead of personal or vacation time, allowing them to treat these moments as non-negotiable appointments with themselves.
  • Setting realistic goals: Though leaders may feel the weight of the world on their shoulders, they need to avoid getting bogged down with unrealistic goals. Setting milestones that are too hard to achieve in a short period can lead to feelings of failure, frustration, and burnout. Instead, teach budding leaders that attainable goals are more conducive to long-lasting success.
  • Finding ways to combine hobbies and goals: Leadership skills can be learned in many hobbies outside of professional settings. For example, sports can be conducive to exercising one’s leadership skills, like taking charge of plays and facilitating team communication. Combining hobbies with leadership learning can save time and make skills development fun.

While it’s beneficial to have time to pursue interests, current and prospective leaders shouldn’t lose sight of their daily responsibilities either. These techniques will prevent professional tasks from falling by the wayside, and still engaging in hobbies can prevent burnout. An effective leader is a balanced leader.

The Holistic Future of Leadership Development

Looking forward, leadership development will likely incorporate more and more soft skills and hobby-led training. This holistic approach speaks to the evolving needs of society, looking to future leaders to provide the empathy and insight-driven decision-making that is much-needed.

By allowing themselves to enjoy their passions, leaders can tap into emotional and creative intelligence. In the future, this may even be facilitated by tech that allows participants to step into a virtual reality of their choosing and practice leadership skills there. In the ever-evolving world of leadership development, holistic teachings will reign supreme, passionately building the more effective leaders of tomorrow.