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Hope in Challenging Times

(from “FTL Update” July 16, 2009) click here to subscribe.

What are you bringing to your organization as a leader? Whether they say
it or not, people in your organization are looking to you for hope where
they might not otherwise see it.

Offering Hope in the Swirl that is Today: What Difference Does a Leader Make?

Humans are intrinsically spiritual creatures, and as such, we are fueled by hope. What is hope? A credible expectation that things will get better. We want to know that things will get better, and we need a credible expectation that the belief is real. Real hope is not a feeling or an ambiguous promise for something different. It is a concrete expectation (or set of expectations) based in rational evidence. Leaders are uniquely positioned to offer hope. They are people to whom others look when asking themselves if they should be hopeful. A leader offers hope because she/he is able to offer (and demonstrate) a well reasoned perspective that shows not only that things can improve, but how and why so.

Finding Reasons to Hope

When Rudy Giuliani spoke publicly in response to the 2001 terrorist attacks on Manhattan, he expressed his confidence in the indomitable spirit of New Yorkers and Americans. He went further to he cite specific, real examples of actions that he witnessed in the midst of the crisis. Others told similar stories about his actions during the crisis: Simple things, like being there (at ground zero), giving hugs, sharing words of encouragement, expressing genuine concern for fellow New Yorkers in their suffering.

Being Authentic

Giuliani’s example demonstrates another simple truth: It is equally important that the leader’s actions are consistent with her/his spoken word, because this reinforces the sometimes fragile hope that each of us cautiously harbors deep in our hearts. We want to know that the hope that the leader offers is real, true, and trustworthy, and where we look to confirm that is in the actions of the leader. In a US News Article about America’s Best Leaders, Writer Anne Mulrine quotes Nathaniel Fick, a former platoon leader for the US Marine Corps when he comments on the importance of the example set by the leader’s actions: “It’s pretty easy to look another human in the eyes and say, ‘This is going to suck, but I’m going to be there with you,’… “It’s harder saying, ‘I need you to do this, and while you do, I’m going to be sitting in the [command center] tent with a cup of coffee.”

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