If numbers are a barometer of success and figures don't lie, how do we explain the following contradictory evidence:

    • More than 50% of all chief executives of Fortune 500 companies had C or C- averages in colleges.
    • Sixty-five percent of all U.S. senators were in the bottom half of their classes.
    • Seventy-five percent of American presidents were in "The Lower-Half Club" when they were in school.
    • More than 50% of millionaire entrepreneurs never even finished college.

You might be surprised by these statistics and wonder, "What led these people to be more successful than those who were straight- A students and completed a higher level of education?" In a word, passion.

It's the single quality that lifts a person head and shoulders above the rest in good — and especially — tough times. It's a burning commitment that involves a person's whole being — mind, body and spirit — making him or her feel vital and alive.

Passion enables employees to tap inner strengths, resources, abilities and energies they didn't know existed. Perhaps that's why a nationwide cross-industry study found that the most significant factor in distinguishing "good" sales performers from "top" sales performers was enthusiasm.

A passionate person kindles a spark that propels colleagues to greater heights. The difference between a good manager and an inspiring, dynamic leader; between a good employee and an outstanding employee, is more than competence. It's a burning commitment.

Passion fosters persistence. True perseverance isn't forced. People who are fired up don't have to push themselves. When they're excited about what they're doing, they don't have to convince themselves to stick with it. The job is not something they have to do; it's something they want to do.

With passion as a guiding force, perseverance comes naturally. It also fosters commitment and the combination elevates your staff members from being merely competent and skilled to being outstanding.

So when you're hiring employees, look for people who exhibit passion and enthusiasm. As for your current staff members, fuel the fire in their hearts and you'll lead them to be more motivated, creative and able to keep ahead of the changing tide.