We have already written about hope as a leadership attitude* at a time when it still seemed to many to be something esoteric. Starting from Paul’s so influential phrase in the first letter to the Corinthians
»Now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; but love is the greatest of these« **
we have described hope as the capacity to hold on to the possibility of realizing something even when much, indeed seemingly everything, speaks against it. Hope speaks of the future not as a form of wishful thinking, but as the power to believe in the becoming of good even when the present makes the future seem rather dark.
In our time, when a mood of depression, of despondency, is spreading and the view into the future seems to be possible only through the haze of failure and despair, the attitude of hope and thus of trust in the possibility of success becomes extremely important. In such an apocalyptic situation, leadership means anticipating a successful future with hope and working for its realization in a targeted and confident manner.
Looking at leadership attitudes, this leads us to an underestimated leadership characteristic: the preservation of a childlike naiveté. This does not mean a groundless, often narcissistic (childish) optimism that does not want to face reality, but the attitude of holding on to the possibility of »better« and drawing from hope the strength to act on reality in a way that increases the chances of making it possible. Just as grace, grace in appearance and speech is an often underestimated leadership virtue, so is naivety. It enables us to transform a »not yet« into a »now there«.
Maintaining this naiveté in the face of the many inevitable disappointments and failures in a career is no small feat, and the psychological term of frustration tolerance is a very limited description of maintaining this hopeful naiveté. Hope takes us closer to what is able to give meaning to a life as an individual and as a community. In this sense, hope carries us through the present and lets us act and shape.
Hope is not wishful thinking. It is the ability to think about the future embedded in the confidence that action is possible.
In the usual leadership trainings, one will rarely find a preoccupation with these attitudes that reach deep into the personality – they are too focused on quick tricks and tips for that. However, if we understand the need to transform hopelessness into hope, so that there is at least a chance of »better«, then it would be time to approach the topic of the future with a hopeful attitude.
* SYNNECTA Sophia 2017: Glaube, Liebe Hoffnung – Im Schatten der Organisation (Rüdiger Müngersdorff)
** King James Bible: And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.
Luther Bible 1912: But now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.