Friday, October 30, 2009

Hope is a Four-Letter Word

A few weeks ago as I was preparing for our company's global user conference, I was spending some time over at the Authentic Leadership blog. I was reading an article entitled "The Hopeful Leader".

The theme and spirit of the article was about trustworthy leadership, and what qualities go into a trusted leader. One of the foundational elements of a trusted leader, the author would ask us to consider, is how a leader consistently crafts and delivers messages of hope.

With all due respect and appreciation of the author's well-written piece, I'd like to offer a different opinion.

In my experience, Hope is a four-letter word.

Hope is an emotion that shares close quarters with fear and surrender.

Hope is often the convenient, favored crutch of in-action. Hope is used (occasionally with the best of intentions) by and when a leader of one, a thousand, or a billion looks to draw strength from future actions while abrogating the present through indecision.

Does hope bring people or societies closer together in pursuit of common goals? Hardly. Hope is often used to disenfranchise us. Hope asks us to voluntarily and cheerfully strip ourselves of all control of our situation and abandon responsibility for our actions (and in-actions). Hope is the ultimate "Get Out of Jail, Free" card for a leader of any organization that can offer nothing to his or her followers except self-aggrandizement.

No matter how difficult, desperate, or futile a situation may seem (from corporate and state failures to life-ending challenges and everything in between), we all have a power to choose our next actions, no matter how small or insignificant it might seem in the face of our hurdles.

Hope, while a seemingly positive state of mind, masks often self-bolstered barriers of fear, paralysis, and other problems that we'd never deal when it's most needed. Hope, in extreme cases, is an abrogation of individual responsibility. In a crises, abrogation of responsibility, even to one's self, is not a desirable leadership quality.

Inspiring leaders lead by example. Visions of better futures are, of course, absolutely essential tools of effective leaders. Leaders that passionately espouse their visions with nothing more than affirmations of their attainability, do not lead.

Hope, when recognized as an enabler of individual power, is a call to action. When backed up with examples of actions, hope can motivate a decision-maker to ultimately lead followers to a destination, and a proverbial promised land.

The leader's trail may be long and slow to traverse, but it is a path that can be followed.

Hope, by itself, is never a strategy. Hope is not a path. Hope blazes no trails.

1 comment:

Jenny Ruth Yasi said...

Yes, hope is too often a passive word. smart of you to say so.