by Lora Wondolowski

As we close out on 2021, I want to end on the concept of hope. Hope has not been an easy concept or emotion for me and many others over the last year. It feels like every time I gain a little ounce of hope, it gets squashed. Think vaccinations then delta breakthroughs. Yet we all need hope to sustain us and keep us going.

A Gallup study of over 10,000 employees found that followers have four primary needs of their leaders: trust, compassion, stability and hope. Despite this need, most leaders spend the majority of their time reacting to needs or crises instead of looking to and defining the future. I recognize that it can be hard to find hope right now. There have also been many more things that need immediate attention. But you as a leader don’t always have to be the conveyer of hope. We can draw on the hope of other team members.

Gallup finds that employees who strongly agree that “their leader makes them feel enthusiastic about the future” (Gallup’s measure of hope in the workplace) are 69 times more likely to be engaged in their work compared with employees who disagree with that statement. Hope allows us to feel that our future can be better than our current disrupted reality. Hope gives us the drive to strive for a better future and solve problems that seem insurmountable.

As a leader, you can share hope by sharing your vision for the future of your team, work, or organization. Setting goals gives others direction and turns hope from a feeling into an action. I was recently on a call with an amazing leader who told us that everyone in her organization knows their why which allows them to hope. Hope is about action.

Hope thrives on energy. By creating enthusiasm and excitement, you build momentum. This allows hope to be contagious. President Obama used his enthusiasm to create hope. As I mentioned earlier, you may not always have that enthusiasm. It is hard to maintain energy right now. Sometimes you will need to borrow it from others. By spreading it around, you will help to make those around you agents of hope themselves, boosting the energy of others.

Lastly, leaders can help remove obstacles for those they lead to keep hope going. Things don’t always go as we plan or expect, so contingency planning is vital. This “find a way” thinking can keep a team from giving up when problems arise.

We all need more hope right now and leaders are key to spreading that hope. I have learned that hope is a choice and not a given. We need to cultivate hope if we want it to take root and grow. One way is to make sure to spend time each day with hopeful people. We have choices about how we spend our time and who we spend it with. As 2021 comes to a close and we enter the holiday season, I look forward to cultivating more hope in myself and those around me.