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How Leaders Build and Destroy Hope

Whichever choice we make in tough circumstances, that choice will be contagious. They will lead our teams towards despair or towards hope.

In today’s world, hope is needed more than ever. I get to work with organizations facing some hard realities. Law enforcement and first responders are faced with a lot of negative public perception in recent years. That perception has created critical manpower shortages as a result of early retirements and recruiting issues. I speak to thousands of these public servants every year and one thing is evident - hope is waning for these men and women. In difficult times, leaders will either build hope or destroy it.

History is full of examples of leaders who intentionally created hope. Winston Churchill led by building hope in spite of the circumstances his country faced during the Nazi’s bombing of civilian targets in England. He did not ignore the realities of the situation, he acknowledged them, and still inspired the citizens to see the possibilities.

While few of us will face a leadership challenge like Churchill faced, we all have opportunities to build hope. That will require us to exercise both Courage and Positivity.

Courage: Acting despite perceived or actual risk.

Positivity: Displaying a positive and/or “can do” attitude in all circumstances.

Leaders of Character create hope by exercising Courage while other people focus on fear and spread despair and helplessness. They don’t allow the circumstances to prevent them from seeing the opportunities in the midst of those circumstances.

Perceived risks are what hold many people back. Our brains exaggerate the possible into the probable. Is it possible that this thing could go wrong? Sure! But is it probable? No.

But the fear of the perceived risks confuse the possible with the probable. Our minds take over and we slide into a paralysis that prevents us from stepping forward, from speaking up, from leading our peers, or even leading our families.

It is not wrong to think about what “could happen” and how things could go wrong. That is how leaders prepare themselves and their teams. It is a leader’s Duty - moral obligation - to look to their right, their left, and to their front and imagine what might go wrong so that they can overcome those possibilities. But, they don’t let the possible prevent progress. Instead, by thinking through what is possible, they can move forward.

When the leader and those they lead feel prepared, Courage grows, because they are not facing something that is unknown. That is why SWOT analysis has been such a valuable tool for leaders for planning. If a fear is vague and not defined, that is the type of fear that will hold teams back. But when you voice your fear, specify what those perceptions may be, they lose their power because you are more prepared for them or we realize how silly some of them truly are.

The Bottom Line:

What should leaders do to build hope instead of destroying it?

● Name the fear we feel and discuss both the negative and positive possibilities.

● Communicate the possibilities frequently and cast a vision of what a positive future looks like.

● Acknowledge the feelings of the doomsayers, but focus on what is within your immediate control.

● Celebrate the small victories in the midst of the uncontrollable circumstances.

● Never stop communicating with Courage and Positivity.

It comes down to the choices a leader makes. Do we choose fear and negativity? Or do we choose Courage and Positivity? Whichever choice we make in our circumstances, those choices will be contagious. They will lead our teams towards despair or towards hope.

Leaders determine whether hope is built or destroyed for most teams. It is the Leaders of Character who deal in hope.


● How have you seen someone build hope in a tough situation?

● What can you learn from that example?


Here is a quick assessment that will take you 5 minutes to figure it out. Nobody will ever see your results but you.

Warning: If you are not going to be honest with yourself this is a worthless assessment.

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