Change is a constant for leaders in our modern and complex world. The cry to change faster and respond quicker is an ever-escalating reality of leadership work. One of the most powerful and simple practices a leader can undertake to be strong in the face of this complexity is hope. Hope allows leaders to move with the changes and not let the changes take them and their organizations into the ground. Hope is the core of forward momentum.
In other words, resilient leaders have hope.
But hope isn’t something you have or don’t have. Hope is a leadership practice, and, like all practices of merit, finding hope takes courage. In building hope and a hopeful view, leaders must face what is happening and yet find within the difficult realities a possible path forward. The practice of hope transforms the crises of the past and the present into the possibility of the future.
As leaders practice hope and a hopeful view, they are garnering generative forces for themselves and their organizations. The practice is heliotropic in that organizations, leaders and teams turn toward hope as if it were the sun shining down on possibilities. Hope drives forward new ways of being and new ideas, and it sustains leaders and organizations as they move through change.
It helps sometimes to think of hope as beach sand after a storm. The storm may have rearranged the sand. New rocks may have appeared just as paths and roads have disappeared. The shore is different, yet the beach will reappear no matter how fierce the storm. For leaders, the daily storms of leading can rearrange everything, yet like the rearranged sand, hope can always re-emerge in a new form with new ways for the organization to foster its future.
Leaders we have worked with and interviewed who practice hope and a hopeful view exhibit powerful abilities to reside within or to let go of things that are not working. They have the ability to reside within or let go of the emotions of despair, anger and hurt. And, they undertake to forgive both themselves and others in deep and meaningful ways.
But how? How can leaders practice hope when it seems like all is lost? How can leaders be strong for their people when they feel like they cannot be strong for themselves? They can begin by practicing for themselves and fostering in others the understanding that…
Hope is about finding and seeing the long view.
Practicing hope and a hopeful view is the ability to recognize the reality of what is, coupled with the belief that a different future state is possible. Holding to these possibilities is the practice of finding within circumstances the defining moments of opportunity; of unlocking different perspectives; and of deeply holding to the belief that within challenging events there are uplifting moments that can be fanned and amplified.
Hope is accepting that conflict exists.
Leading with a hopeful view does not mean that there will be no conflict or that people will not fail themselves and others. Hope is not about being joyful or optimistic all the time; rather, it is about finding the generative possibilities within tension and conflict. It involves caring profoundly about finding ways for people to enter into dialogue that can lead to understanding and new ways of being.
Hope is about accepting that some things are as they are.
It is not about the world being as one wishes it to be but about being within the world as it is. Practicing hope is about continuing along a path that will lead to change even though one might not know the outcome, be present for the change or be able to control it. It is about having courage to continue as a leader in the everyday of challenging times.
Hope is a frame of mind.
We all frame or perceive people and situations in certain ways. The ability to “re-perceive” people and situations is a practice of hope. It enables leaders to see that they can build positive consequences from even the direst circumstances. What leaders focus on and foster influences the outcomes both for themselves and for the people who work with them.
It seems simplistic to state that hope comes from paying attention to the hopeful path, but it is true. Being able to see and construct hope from what is present in the environment is a practice leaders can undertake daily to hone hope as a resilience practice. It allows them to see that in any moment, there is always something that they can nurture and foster.
Hope as a resilience practice is like being a gardener. Gardeners sow the earth knowing that some things will grow and some will flounder. They repeatedly begin again and re-sow, knowing that the wind, rain and sun can be nurturing friends or destructive foes. In the garden, there is both hope and its shadow. Hope is open to the possible and deeply feels the moment of beginning anew.