“I believe hope is the only thing we can never afford to be without, and the jet fuel for the journey of work and life.” – Libby Gill


Given the current state of work, I believe there are few things more important for a leader than to inspire hopefulness in those around them. And while in organizations, hope without a good business strategy is most certainly a recipe for disaster, I believe the converse is equally as true. Kathy Caprino references a compelling interview on hope with Libby Gill, the former head of communications/PR for Sony, Universal, and Turner Broadcasting in her article, If You can’t Instill Hope, You’ll Fail Miserably As A Leader. Gill, who grew up in a family challenged by divorce, mental illness, and suicide, is quoted saying, “hope has always been more than just an abstract concept to me.” She goes on to say, “If you are providing strategies to people who are feeling hopeless, it’s like giving someone a power tool without electricity. Utterly useless.”

Hopelessness is defined as having no expectation of good or success, unable to be changed and unable to be helped or improve. It is also the inability to learn, act, or perform, while synonyms for hopeless include words such as despair, resignation, pointless and impossible. And if strategy is a plan chosen to bring about a desired future, it seems that having one to ensure organizations are void of the above characteristics makes good sense. In essence, a people or culture plan that includes hope as a strategy; a strategy to cultivate a mind-set among the workforce that the future will be better than the past, and a strategy that elicits a shared belief among the employees that they can make it happen.

Cultures are built in the shadow of the leaders. Thus organizations that want to instill a mind-set of hope among their workforce require trustworthiness, inspiration and vigilance from those at the top.


Authors Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner are often quoted as saying “people won’t believe in the message until they believe in the messenger.” They make this in point various ways throughout their books The Truth about Leadership. Their message is grounded in research that shows in survey after survey, the number one characteristic employees want from their leaders is honesty. In short, they need to know their leader is truthful, ethical, and principled before they will willingly follow them to a future desired state.


Contrary to popular opinion, charisma is not a tuxedo and a microphone. In her book The Charisma Myth, Oilivia Fox Cabane shares the three core elements of charisma: presence, power, and warmth. Presence as in the moment awareness of what is happening and power (socialized) as being perceived as someone who can get things done for others. Warmth as Cox says is “goodwill toward others.” Charismatic leaders are not those who make us feel that they are the best and brightest in the room, but that we are, enhancing our belief in ourselves and hope for a brighter future.


Much like trust, inspiring hope in others takes time and patience, however can be lost in a minute. As leaders, we must remain vigilant in our vision for hopefulness and always keep top of mind Albert Schweitzer’s seminal quote, “In everyone’s life, at some time or another, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle our inner spirit.” Leaders need to be “those people” for the people they serve.

Maybe there was a time when hope was not a strategy. A time where command and control leadership was the norm and the quest for profits far outweighed the care for people. But today is a different day as more and more organizations shift to the human side, and the promise for a better tomorrow becomes the standard by which all companies will be measured.


Editor’s Note: This article was originally published at Switch and Shift, and has been republished with permission.



Mark Fernandes

Mark Fernandes

Having a passion for inspiring people to believe in themselves and become everything they are capable of becoming, Mark works with individuals and organizations to inspire transformation. @MarkSFernandes

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