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The Critical Business Leadership Trait Nobody Talks About

Business woman looking beyond the storm to a hopeful future

Posted By: Asha Bianca
Published: October 5, 2017

When I think of the greatest leaders, there are many characteristics that come to mind, like integrity, grit, intelligence, and creativity. The one that has resonated more recently with me is hope. I’m not talking about a flighty, unfounded hope. I am talking about a well-reinforced hope in seeing the opportunities that might not be readily visible in a given situation.

A leader is an individual who sees a business, product, or team member and identifies how it can be better than it is. They then cast this vision, remove obstacles, and support their team on the path to success along the way. At its core, this process is hope in action. A leader uses hope as a verb, defined as “looking forward to with desire and reasonable confidence” or “to believe, desire, or trust.” Hope is necessary for a leader to invoke change. If they don’t have the seedling of hope, they won’t see the possibilities and move toward the actions of turning them into a reality.

A leader who I respect once asked a colleague, “Are you hoping or knowing?” The best leaders do both. They start with a hope of a possible disrupter or change, and they gain confidence in their ability to know it can work. Then they influence others to become advocates for it and create a contagious hope that turns into sweat, smarts, and work.

I pondered why hope isn’t one of the foundational leadership terms we frequently use, and I came to a conclusion: we are not comfortable with possibly being wrong. But great leaders have to be comfortable risking that they may be wrong, and wise enough to know when they are. This requires another H word: humility. I would challenge that as leaders, we must be comfortable with words like hope, dream, and believe being a core part of who we are. If we don’t allow ourselves to hope, dream, and believe, how can we expect our teams to?

Following are some key hope takeaways:

  1. Optimism is just as contagious as pessimism. Being an optimistic leader doesn’t mean you aren’t going to hold individuals accountable. It means you are positive about the company and its future. If you want to impact your team’s attitude, try optimism.
     
  2. Being hopeful does not mean you don’t need to put in the work. Success takes work, smarts, and sweat. A positive outlook and ability to see an opportunity doesn’t lighten in any way the amount of real hard work that needs to accompany hope. Hope is the positive confidence that helps steer and influence the “validation then confirmation” work.
     
  3. Dream big. Our ability to be hopeful allows us to dream, which allows us to create in a unique way. We see a problem or opportunity differently when we allow ourselves the time and freedom to dream big. The future workplace will have plenty of opportunities for creative leaders who dream big, hope fruitfully, and implement creative solutions. Be one of those kind of leaders.