Much attention is given to what constitutes a great leader. A quick google search will yield countless thoughts on the characteristics, habits, and attitudes of those leaders we hold in high regard. Among these lists you’re sure to find qualities like integrity, courage, communication, a sense of humility, strong work ethic, and high emotional intelligence. These are all important and necessary traits for sure. But one ingredient that isn’t to be missed is the ability be a “dealer of hope.”
Hope, defined by Keith Ferrazzi in Leading Without Authority, is “the belief that things could be better and that you can make them better.” While this has a clear impact on effectiveness in the workplace (Ferrazzi quotes research supporting it may account for up to 14% of productivity), it has a larger, more compelling influence on our overall attitudes and sense of purpose.
The best of leaders know that hope truly can take on a life of its own. But yet there are also plenty of leaders out there who, maybe unknowingly, steal hope away from those they impact. And while hope alone does not create change, as leaders we must never discount the power it has on people as individuals and exponentially on our team’s success. In fact, all we have to do is ask ourselves what would happen in the absence of hope. Convinced yet?
“Hope” is the thing with feathers—“Hope” is the thing with feathers, Emily Dickinson
That perches in the soul—
And sings the tune without the words—
And never stops—at all.
If you’re understanding the powerful, infinite role hope plays in our lives, are you now curious which type of leader you are? Check out these questions to make sure you’re a hope dealer and not a hope stealer.
- Do you connect people with a larger purpose? Playing a role in something bigger than ourselves, knowing we have a chance to be a piece of a ripple-creating puzzle, is hugely motivating. Part of keeping hope alive, especially during challenging times, is to help people see how and why they are uniquely necessary. Knowing our impact helps us rise above the challenges and feeds perseverance.
- Do you provide a sense of belonging? Having a feeling of community, which promotes motivation and wellness, gives us a sense that we are not alone. Trust that is built by a team agreeing to be on the journey together is invaluable in building hope. People need to be surrounded by others who are at the ready to celebrate achievements as well as offer support during setbacks. Nurturing strong relationships is at the core of this work and, as leaders, we have to know the people we serve and give them a safe, welcoming place to land. We can begin by valuing the unique gifts that everyone brings and loving them just for being the awesome humans they are.
- Do you believe in others and prioritize opportunities? Believing in those you serve as a leader is shown in both little and small ways, in words and actions, in times of success and setbacks. Belief fuels so much greatness and when it is shown authentically, it can move mountains. Small notes of encouragement like, “I believe in you. You have unique gifts and I am excited to see how they unfold,” can be just the fuel of hope someone needs to hear. Take that spark and seek out opportunities that highlight and nurture those unique gifts. Planning for and supporting these opportunities for others scream, “I KNOW you got this!” and ignite the spark of belief into a flame of hope.
- Are you transparent about challenges & circumstances? In Jim Collins’ book Good To Great, he highlights the experiences of Admiral James Stockdale who, while serving in the United States military during the Vietnam War, was imprisoned. Collins asks Stockdale what, in particular, helped him survive when he didn’t yet know the end of the story and while many other prisoners of war perished. Stockdale answered, “I never doubted not only that I would get out, but also that I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into the defining event of my life, which, in retrospect, I would not trade.” After describing those who did not survive as the optimists, he continued, “This is a very important lesson. You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.” In fact, it is a very important lesson. Great leaders build trust by not glossing over the facts, obstacles and all. Sharing the good, the bad, and the ugly engages an essential element of hope. For our faith to be unshakeable we must first confront our reality.
- Do you keep the WHY in focus and let the HOW and WHAT follow? Part of what keeps hope alive, despite the inevitable challenges that come, is realizing that there are many paths to our goal. Being confident and clear in our WHY, realizing the HOW and WHAT can and will change, creates a flexibility that keeps us moving forward with clear sights set on a better future. Simon Sinek, is his explanation of The Golden Circle, points to the science behind the importance of starting with the WHY, in turn engaging our limbic brain. While this part of the brain has no capacity for language, it is responsible for our feelings, behaviors and decision-making. When we start from the outside-in, we lose ourselves and others in a sea of information. When, instead, we choose to communicate from the inside-out, our WHY inspires action and creates hope.
Great leaders are influencers, nurturers and inspirers. In short, great leaders are hope dealers. And the best thing about hope? It creates an inertia that propels not only ourselves but everyone in our sphere of influence to greatness.
How do you build hope? Together we are brilliant, so I’d love to connect! Share this post by tweeting and tagging me (@me1odystacy) or feel free to start a conversation by commenting below.