Leaders: Moving from Hardship to Hope
“When things are good, give thanks. When things are bad, consider.” (Solomon)
Your hope and where it emanates from matters to your organization. That idea may seem rather irrelevant to you right now in the face of hardship, if you didn’t understand that hope is a reflection of your character as a leader and your character a reflection of how you respond in the face of hardship past and present. In fact, I believe there will be a direct correlation between your internal and external response to this current crisis and your fruitfulness as an organization in the future.
Crisis test us and if we are willing, it refines us. Tests inform us what’s inside. A math test shows us, for example, how much math we have retained, and what we can apply. Crisis tests what is in us as leaders, what we have retained and what we can apply. If a leader has a history of successfully persevering in the midst of difficulties*, mediating the obstacles in front of them in a way that preserves and fights for the enduring good of all, the inherent dignity and worth of people, and their work, they have learned the kinds of lessons only refining offers.
Refining is not a kind teacher, because it forces us to wrestle with our motives. Your motives are now on display in the theatre of leadership. Your motives will reveal themselves in your actions towards others and yourself. If you move towards self-preservation, you have sided with an evolutionary mindset that believes the fit survive; this thinking cultivates empire building. If you move towards the benefit of all, even when all cannot equally contribute, you are moving towards community.
Great organizations, like great leaders, ones that endure over time while contributing to the good of the world, the community of the world, demonstrate their greatness not in their power or influence but in their care for the least of these. Why? Because caring for the least of these, particularly in times of need when resources are stretched thin, is a measure of enduring character, evidenced by a power uncompromised by worldly affirmations. That kind of character is worthy of following.
Your character as a leader is formed, not bestowed. It is formed in the crucible of crisis, burning away the dross of self -serving and fear, by relentlessly and selflessly persevering on behalf of others. We know character when we see it and we follow people of character. We, in fact, long for our leaders to be men and women of character.
Character has its own reward and that reward is hope. Not the kind of pedantic hope that wishes everything well, but the kind of hope only wrought through character that takes the reins in crisis, bends its knee towards the good of all, and moves with brave and swift intentionality to a fruitful and noble end, by persevering. Hope comes from such actions, because Hope:the happy anticipation of the good, is schooled in adversity and knows well the path to a good end. That path invites you now into next steps in perseverance as you address the difficult issues in front of you. Lean into this new journey, your people need the real Hope that your actions and your heart offer. Let this be your finest hour.
What You Can Do Today that Will Lead to Hope
Consider: Do not over or under react right now. Consider the following questions and your answers to convey a measured, informed response. Write down your answers-writing represents commitment to thoughts and will force you to consider the implications.
1.Is our vision, our picture of why we exist standing up to the scrutiny of crisis?
2. If not, why do we really exist as an organization?
3. What is worth pressing into right now and why is it worth it?
4. What is worth preserving and what must be refined?
5. What will it cost us to do that?
6. What will it cost us if we don’t?
7. What am I trying to personally preserve?
8. Is what I am trying to personally preserve, in alignment with what the organization needs?
9. Who are our least of these? Can they be re-deployed now?
9. Do my actions convey hope or fear?
10. Is our passion-our desire to really help people-being mobilized in a way right now that makes sense from a human well-being and a business perspective?
11. Am I really hopeful as a leader? Why or Why not?
12. What do I do about what I now know about myself, our vision, our people?
(*As long as the difficulties are not self -inflicted)
Jonathan Paul is a Business Consultant who integrates insights from his background in clinical and vocational psychology to help leader’s lead by building alignment, developing new organizational competencies that grow their firms. He and his team have worked with approx. 850 companies.