Dealing in Hope

Napoleon Bonaparte claimed, “A leader is a dealer in hope.”

Hope is a strangely human enigma. It can’t be handled but it can be shared. It can’t create anything on its own but it can pave the way for new accomplishments.

Whether you’re celebrating a new beginning (like the start of a new year), caught up in new adventure or struggling to maintain the status quo, hope plays a key role. Not only must leaders be positive (no one wants to follow a pessimist!), they must deal in hope that can be felt and transferred.

Here are several ways to grow and share your hope.

Cast a Fascinating Vision

Plans are critical to any leadership endeavor, but they aren’t inspiring. Plans and goals are actionable. A vision is a picture of what could (and should) be. It can be felt. It has the power to unite. But not all visions are created equal. Even if your goals seem routine, identify the better future they create and share it in a compelling way.

Humanize Your Message

Hope won’t spring eternal for a new sales goal. But it will for a solution to a human need. At the end of the day, every business is a people business. Resist the tendency to get lazy with your message. Find the person on the other end of your goal and make them a focal point for your message.

Blow it Up

Realist goals get approved but don’t inspire hope. Zoom out: how could you make your goal 10% bigger? 100% bigger? It takes discipline to think big – especially when many leaders are overloaded with putting out fires and managing the daily grind. Not every goal should be expanded, and none of them should be arbitrarily. Forcing yourself to think bigger not only ups the ante, it provides the chance to discover a game-changing new alternative.

Identify Your Kryptonite

Hope isn’t restrained by realism. But that shouldn’t prevent you from doing a risk assessment. What could prevent your hopes from coming true? How can you avoid this? How will you continue if it can’t be avoided? If you fail to identify risks, your hopes aren’t any better than whims.

History is filled with leaders who accomplished amazing feats with little more than hope. Even if your situation is much more “everyday” than the heroes in our books and movies, hope must be stewarded. As John Johnson said, “It’s the size of your hope that will determine how far you will go in life.”

Nathan Magnuson is an executive leadership consultant, speaker and author of the books Stand Out! and Ignite Your Leadership Expertise. Click to see the exciting ways Nathan is helping organizations and teams become more effective with Leadership-in-a-Box.