The last several years have been times of unprecedented challenges for all of us. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, we could not have imagined how our lives would change, how our work lives would be impacted and the toll it would exact on so many families.
It’s not surprising, then, that hope is often in short supply these days. Recent research supports this observation. In one study, at least 50% of participants had feelings of hopelessness within the past month. That’s not a good statistic, particularly at a time when being hopeful is a necessity for coping with the present and future.
More so for leaders, exhibiting hope and creating hopeful organizations is a key responsibility as they navigate the uncertain waters of today’s business environment. Let me share some thoughts with you about the nature of hope and why it can be so beneficial for both individuals and organizations.
Hope is the belief that you can imagine your future and actually achieve it. It’s not some sort of idealistic, wishful thinking in which you sit back and wait to see what happens. Hope is active. It means taking responsibility for what you wish to achieve and planning the way to get there. Hope is a state of being and therefore can be developed in each of us.
Hope is very goal-oriented. Being hopeful means you set specific goals for your future. You are motivated and energized about your future. However, you don’t stop there. You also believe you have the wherewithal to make your future a reality. That’s not passive, wishful thinking. Hope is an active process. It takes both the “will” and the “way” to be hopeful.
You know the adage about seeing the glass as “half full.” The hopeful person sees that glass as half full and then figures out how to make it full.
Leaders must exude hope, not only for themselves but also for those with whom they work. Organizations in which leaders are hopeful and create hopeful work environments enjoy such benefits as higher employee retention, greater levels of satisfaction and engagement, and increased profitability.
Hopeful leaders, much like servant leaders, help remove the obstacles that get in the way of employees achieving their work goals. Such leaders find ways of intrinsically motivating them to achieve their goals through praise, by providing opportunities for growth and professional development, and by involving employees in decision-making processes.
Hopeful leaders continuously encourage employees by reminding them how their work contributes to achieving the organization’s vision and mission. Thus, they generate hope in their co-workers, believing that the future of the organization is attainable and that their work has meaning and purpose.
As I stated earlier, hope can be developed. That development, though, just like hope itself, is not passive. It just doesn’t “happen.” It includes practice, practice and more practice. You have to work on being hopeful. We all have struggled at times with being hopeful. Significant life and organizational challenges can easily derail our desire to remain hopeful during such difficult times.
In response, we need to see these challenges as events. Events that won’t last forever, events that can be overcome, and events that don’t have to permanently alter our future. Sometimes, that’s not easy to do when we are in the midst of those situations.
In addition, there are many great resources available online that can help us become hopeful. Check them out, and see whether they can be useful to you.
We all need to be hopeful — now more than ever.
James Dittmar is the Founder, President, and CEO of the 3Rivers Leadership Institute, through which he creates and delivers training and development that is transformational. Prior to this Jim founded the award-winning Geneva College M.S. in Organizational Leadership Program and served as Chair of the Department of Leadership Studies and Director of the M.S. in Organizational Leadership Program until 2015. Should you have any questions, comments or feedback, please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.