Leadership of Hope

Recently, I talked with Judith Timson of the the Globe & Mail, Canada's national newspaper, about an unusual topic - hope in the workplace. Hope isn't often addressed in relation to business. But hope is vitally important to success because it begins the cycle of possibility thinking that leads to a breakthrough.

"Hell is the place where one has ceased to hope" – A.J. CRONIN

HOPE FUELS PROGRESS. It is the belief that possibilities are more powerful than circumstances and that imagination and strong-heartedness are sufficient to solve any problem or generate new opportunities. Every invention, innovation, and positive change that benefits our families, businesses, and communities comes from the hope and belief that we can and must do better.

One of the important responsibilities of a leader is to create an environment of hope. Hope means "the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best." We all need that feeling to be successful. Hope is a call to action, to dream, to explore possibilities. As Peter Levi points out, "No hope, no action."

HOPE LEADS TO OPTIMISM. Optimism is the presumption of good prevailing. The optimistic leader faces each moment confidant that his or her gifts, talents, knowledge, experience and resourcefulness will carry the day. A team or company of optimists is a force to be reckoned with and conditions its own success through positive thinking and a "can-do" attitude.

Optimism does not ignore reality. A great way to sabotage optimism is "magical thinking". Magical thinking ignores or dismisses reality rather facing it head on. The optimistic leader is careful to take everything into consideration - all the positives and the negatives

Even in the face of adversity, the optimistic leader knows that something good will emerge. John F. Kennedy said: "Every area of trouble gives out a ray of hope, and the one unchangeable certainty is that nothing is certain or unchangeable." The optimist boldly seizes opportunities that others greet with skepticism or pessimism.

OPTIMISM LEADS TO PASSION. "Nothing great in the world has been accomplished," said George Hegel, "without passion." Leaders who are passionate about what they do bring fire and enthusiasm to their work and that's infectious. Who doesn't want to be around the kind of passion that invented the iPod, fuels the breakthrough performance of Southwest Airlines or the tradition of excellence and fanatic customer loyalty of Harley Davidson motorcycles?

Arnold Toynbee provides some pragmatic advice for leaders on how to light the fire of enthusiasm in the workplace: "Enthusiasm can only be aroused by two things: first, an ideal which takes the imagination by storm, and second, a definite, intelligible plan for carrying that ideal into practice.

"The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the person doing it." – CHINESE PROVERB

PASSION LEADS TO POSSIBILITIES. Leaders with hope, optimism and passion generate possibilities. Possibility thinking is the creative response of the imagination to an opportunity. Possibility means "something that can or may exist, happen or be done; the condition of being possible." What an interesting and powerful distinction, "the condition of being possible." It is undoubtedly a leader's responsibility to create the right conditions for something new, better and different to emerge.

For the optimist, filled with hope and possibility, there is very little that cannot be accomplished. "I have learned to use the word impossible with the greatest caution," writes Werner von Braun. And he was a rocket scientist!

Even the most difficult circumstances can benefit from a hopeful, optimistic, passionate and creative attitude.

"When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall - think of it, always." – MAHATMA GHANDI

seven things you can do to support hope:

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Posted on December 1, 2004 .