A conversation with a client the other day about how to engage her team more completely led to an important question. She had some conversations with team members recently that revealed that the team is losing hope about their chances for success in the face of a very challenging business climate. For her team “Yes we can.” was becoming “No we can’t.” Fast action is required without a doubt. But what’s a leader to do? In times of adaptive change, our teams want a message of hope and a reminder that through working together and trusting one another that they achieve their objectives. It is the role of the leader to provide hope and create an atmosphere typified by trust.
While instilling hope in our teams and organizations is the desired outcome, I want to focus on what it means for an individual leader to be a person of hope. For it is always true that we cannot give what we do not have. Erich Fromm said, “To hope means to be ready at every moment for that which is not yet born, and yet not become desperate if there is no birth in our lifetime.” How do we sustain an atmosphere in which we and our teams can make ready what must emerge for us to be successful?
Hope presupposes trust. Without trust, there is no hope; for hope is fundamentally a sense of trust that all shall be well. Why shall all be well? Because I trust in my own abilities and I trust in others. Trusting in our individual and collective strength and capacity to achieve is hope-inspiring. Whatever I wish to do, dream I can do, or believe I can do, I can do. That is hope based on trust of self and trust of others.
A lack of trust in an organization is deadly. Without trust in leadership, in other teams, in products and services, in systems, you name it, there is little hope that the organization can accomplish what it sets out to do, nor that leaders will follow through on promises to people. In times of adaptive change (like now), the leader must be a person of hope and must inspire people to trust. To do that, the leader must trust himself and others. In that way, the leader demonstrates what it means to be a person of hope.