An Indispensable Quality for Leadership

I am a lifelong Ohio State Buckeyes football fan. Buckeye fans don’t have an excellent reputation. We can be a bit entitled and condescending. 

I try not to be one of those fans. I love the Buckeyes, but I also appreciate college football as a whole. (The following sentence may get me in trouble with the Buckeye faithful.) I even appreciate Nick Saban’s Alabama teams. 

A great benefit of being an Ohio State fan is that every season starts with hope. Even after losing players to the NFL and graduation, we have hope that the new young players will step in and keep the success rolling. Most fan bases are not so lucky. 

Hope is the lifeblood of major college football. When hope is lost, interest wanes, and a downward spiral begins.

When a new coach is hired, his first priority is to instill hope.

Beyond football, my sense is that right now, we are facing a crisis of hope. 

In America, congress narrowly avoided a government shutdown this weekend, and while I am happy they got something done, the political acting leading up to the resolution eroded hope. 

On Friday, Fortune published an article citing BlackRock’s Larry Fink:

The chairman of BlackRock, which manages more than $9 trillion in assets, says the global economy is missing hope — an ingredient he says is essential for any financial outlook. . .

“The biggest issue for me—and I say this to every governmental leader I see worldwide—what the world is missing today is hope.”

I think he is right.

People of faith even sound more fatalistic than hopeful these days.

Personally, I struggle with hope. There is an old adage: “Some people see the glass half empty. Others see the glass half full.” I’m more of a “who got the glass out and who is going wash it” kind of guy. 

Which means I am not naturally an optimist.

But as I enter the second half of my life, it is more evident that one of my key roles is to instill hope in others. Which for me means I have to work on building hope for myself first.

Here are a few practices that help me be more hopeful:

  1. Get a WIN early in the day.

    An early win sets the tone for my entire day. Exercise. Read. Meditate. Pray. Put away the clean dishes. Any positive progress early in the morning sets a positive tone for my entire day.

  2. Focus on what I see in my physical world.

    My digital devices tend to focus on the negative, while my physical world is much more positive. As I walk through my neighborhood, I see neighbors talking and helping one another, parents playing with kids, and dogs living their best lives. It reminds me that the world is not such a bad place after all.

  3. Get outside.

    Our inside world is primarily manufactured. Our outside world is mostly natural. The natural world reminds me that my needs are met by something beyond myself. Trees are providing the oxygen I need. Plants provide the food. The sun is providing the warmth, energy, and Vitamin D. Being outside reminds me that I am being provided for every day.

  4. Be goal-focused, not circumstance-focused.

    A goal (or vision of a preferred future at a set point in time) increases energy. It gives us something to work towards. It gives meaning to the mundane tasks of everyday life. In many ways, an attainable goal in a short period of time is what made my college years enjoyable. (A degree in four years.) That and the fact the college naturally created the environment for our final idea.

  5. Strengthen your social relationships.

    Humans can endure a lot when they have a supportive community around them. Every day, you should do one thing to strengthen your relational fabric. Send a note of encouragement, make a call, send a text, or handwrite a thank-you note.

Hope is an indispensable quality for leaders. You cannot instill it in others until you instill hope in yourself, and our world desperately needs hope.


Brian Rutherford

Brian Rutherford is the Director of Operations for Leadercast. Brian has been telling stories professionally for twenty-five years. Stories that inspire people to see themselves and the world differently. Stories that challenge people to take meaningful action in the world.

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