One day, we’ll all pass. With very few exceptions (and I mean very few), beyond a small group of people in our families and for an extremely brief period of time, little of what we say or do will matter for very long afterwards. This is an uncomfortable truth of life. It’s why we spend so much time thinking about why we do what we do, about who we really are as individuals and as Leaders, and why we spend so much time imagining our own importance. We’re trying to make sense not only of what’s going on around us, but of what part we actually play in the grand scheme of things.
In short, we’re continually looking for hope. We care deeply about our families, our communities, our faith, our society, and our way of life. Why? Because we need to feel that sense of importance in order to keep giving ourselves hope.
The reason there are so many more followers than Leaders is because all the followers are not only looking for someone to lead them, they’re looking for someone to give them hope.
Leaders, do you understand that one of your primary obligations (note I didn’t say responsibilities) is to provide hope. When you really start digesting that thought and marinating upon it for any length of time, it would give most of us serious pause to consider if this ‘Leadership thing’ is really for us.
Hope is why most of us believe we’re here for a reason. Hope is why many of us believe nothing is a coincidence. Hope is why most of us believe that everyone matters because our character and behavior affect everyone under our influence. Hope is why most of us believe that if we can lift just one person up, then everything else is worth it. Hope is why it’s still worth waking up in the morning and working very hard to stay ahead of the tsunami of negative that tries to drown us at every turn.
A Leader’s mental psyche needs hope to survive the way an engine needs fuel. Without that fuel, our whole mental apparatus stalls out. If we don’t believe there’s any hope that the future will be better than the present and that our life will improve in some way, then we die mentally, emotionally, physically and finally, spiritually.
Seriously, if there’s no hope of things ever being better, why do anything? I don’t believe the opposite of happiness is sadness or anger. I believe it’s hopelessness. I didn’t have that perspective until I spent the last seven years working everyday with people devoid of hope. I came to realize that as long as people can still be sad or get angry, they at least still cared about something. It’s when they lose hope, that they have nothing to really care about and literally approach ground zero in life.
I learned that hopelessness is the root of anxiety, mental illness and depression. It’s also the source of misery and addiction in the form of the fear of a failed or meaningless future. When you start thinking of these crises as those of hopelessness, then you start to understand that they’re all desperate attempts to generate hope. In most cases, generating that hope becomes the mind’s primary objective.
I’ve learned more about real Leadership in the last seven years (both personally and professionally), than in the entirety of a 27-year career in the corporate marketplace. As Leader, I’ve learned that most of what we construct around us is for the purpose of providing and maintaining hope; not just for others, but for ourselves. When I gained that understanding, it became clear that I had a greater obligation (again, I didn’t say responsibility) beyond my job description, and even now in my effort to develop Leaders of tomorrow. I had to provide narratives that implied a better future was possible and that achieving it was absolutely possible.
I also gained and understanding that when others spent too much time talking about finding their life’s purpose, it really meant that what mattered and what was worthy of any investment of effort wasn’t really clear to them. I learned that one of my obligations as Leader was to provide that clarity.
We all see the world through a different lens. Some through a racial lens. Some through an environmental lens. Some through a political lens. Some through a societal lens. Some through a religious lens. Some through a patriotic lens. Even some through a ‘I don’t give a rip about anybody else lens.’ As a result, we all have different narratives.
As Leader, understand two things:
- Seeing the world through only one lens limits your ability to provide the Leadership required by any group of any number with a multitude of lens.
- Seeing the world through only one lens limits your ability to provide a simple, relevant and compelling narrative that will give them all the same feeling of hope.
Truth Be Told, as Leader, Thy Name is Hope!