The emotion that is most significant to winning emotional commitment is hope, the feeling that something desirable is possible or is likely to happen. Hope has many faces and so attracts many descriptions. It has been called a weapon against intractable problems, a valuable possession and a catalyst for change. Aristotle captured the fanciful face of hope when he described it as “a waking dream.” Author Madeleine Blais, writing about a struggling basketball team, concluded that “hope is a muscle.” Blais’s characterization of hope suggests that it benefits from exercise and the right nutrition.
Norman Cousins, almost totally paralyzed by a degenerative disease and given just a few months to live, eventually returned to work after treating himself with high doses of vitamin C and laughter, wrote, “The capacity for hope is the most significant fact of life.”
Vaclav Havel, internationally known writer and president of the Czech Republic, said, “Hope is a state of mind, not of the world.” Educator, Yale University chaplain and civil rights activist William Sloane Coffin, Jr. wrote, “Hope arouses, as nothing else can arouse, a passion for the possible.” Beverly O’Neill believes that, “Hope is the best thing you could provide anyone.” One of the greatest sources of satisfaction in her role as mayor of Long Beach, California is “Every day you can provide hope for the future.”
Leaders foster hope in four ways:
- With their optimism about grounding their insights and visions in reality, and about the capabilities of others. Example: Introduce new employees, talk about their past success, and get others excited about what the new people bring to the table.
- With practical actions and successes. Example: Celebrate small achievements and successes. Communicate about how each small success drives the organization toward its overall goals and objectives.
- With the hopeful tenor of their personal stories. Example: We know one multimillion dollar retailer founded by its CEO in his parents’ basement when he was just 13 years old. When he tells his story of personal success at new employee orientations, he sets the room abuzz – with hope for the future.
- With the power of their insights and the nobility of their visions. Example: Another CEO talks with new employees about how his company “builds wealth,” improves the tax base, and contributes to the local economy. His employees are inspired to work hard, and imbued with a sense of hope for their community and for their families.
Adapted from “The Art of Winning Commitment: 10 Ways Leaders Can Engage Minds, Hearts, and Spirits,” by Dick Richards, AMACOM, 2004.
photo credit: That Guy Who’s Going Places
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