Effective leadership comes in a variety of styles. But whatever their style, leaders must impart one thing to those who follow. That one thing is hope.
Hope gives purpose to the dedication and sacrifice that leaders ask of their people. Hope creates optimism and good will. Hope brings out the best in us, both individually and as organizations.
Leadership's role is often described in terms of casting vision, inspiring others, and maintaining morale.
- But why do we expect leaders to instill vision? In no small part because vision builds hope.
- Why do we look to leaders to inspire? Because hope flourishes best in the soil of inspiration.
- Why are leaders held accountable for dispirited teams and sagging morale? Because demoralization always works at cross purposes to hope.
Hope is confident anticipation of a future which bodes well. Leaders must therefore be future-oriented. Without a compelling sense of a promising future themselves, leaders have neither the power nor the passion to instill hope in others. Instead, leadership finds itself reduced to reactive management, making day-to-day tactical decisions with no grand view of a larger orchestrating purpose.
To sustain hope among their people, leaders must nurture their own hope. It's one of the leader's greatest personal responsibilities. Leaders can easily become so bogged down in the challenges at hand — particularly in difficult times — that their own clarity of vision becomes blurred. And with that loss of clarity, their hope, too, loses vitality and fervor.
For the leader whose hope is waning, nothing is more important than taking necessary steps to renew it. To do otherwise is a serious leadership mistake.
On the other hand, some leaders have such clarity of vision and such deep-seated hope that they are prone to another mistake. They may easily take it for granted that everyone around them shares the same confident anticipation of the future that comes naturally to them. They don't look for opportunities to remind their people of the vision and to instill deeper hope are overlooked.
Without regular reminders, however, people easily lose sense of the organization's sustaining vision. And once clarity of vision starts to wane, discouragement and difficulties take a telling toll on hope.
I've never heard of an organization plagued by the problem of too much hope. But is certainly easy to let hope languish. For leaders, then, it's hard to imagine that leadership could over-communicate messages that impart hope.