“A leader is a dealer in hope.” Napoleon Bonaparte.
By all accounts, Bonaparte was such a contradictory character that it is hard to imagine he inspired much hope or empathy with those he led. Yet, he led hundreds of thousands with a vison of triumph. His words are still true today. Whether you promise or deliver a vision of an alternative future (which eventually you must, or perish as Bonaparte’s men did); you are dealing in hope.
We look to a leader to give us hope; hope that they will lead us through our difficulties and into a better future. Even leaders need leaders – someone who sees beyond the immediate horizon or through the immediate complexity and is willing to navigate through it. Hope is the sure belief that there is a way through whatever challenge is facing you. It’s also the intention to navigate through that challenge. Optimism and hope are different creatures.
Optimism suggests ‘it’ll all work out somehow’.
Hope embraces a proactive stance, ‘We’ll find a way through.’
The best dealers in hope don’t attempt to hide the truth from people, instead they shine a light onto the pathway forward through tumultuous times.
Martin Luther King Jr. continued to publically address the scale of the Civil Rights challenge for America, but alongside a vision and the strategic actions that propelled a people forward.
Why is hope so crucial and so powerful?
Hope is a great motivator. It creates an energy that lifts our eyes to the horizon. Hope is in the footsteps, whether you’re taking the stairs one, two or three at a time. Hope is the fuel that pushes you
onwards on the journey. Hope has an ability to handicap fear.
Being a leader in hope isn’t about relentless enthusiasm or boundless optimism. It’s not about recklessness, either. To truly bring hope into your environment you must be hold a realistic view of your situation, as well as a strategy to bring change.
A leader brings the perspective of:
1. the reality of what is
2. the vision of a possible (alternative) future
3. the willingness to find a pathway there
4. a hindsight view of what we’ve learned before
Optimism can be ebbed away. But hope is shared, communal and demands participation in the process. Those who would have hope step into the storm and look to navigate through it.
Leaders invite people to join in the navigation, the problem-solving, the search for a pathway through. They also invite people into the vision of the alternate future so many of us are searching for.