The process of leadership flourishes when people assume responsibility for the choice to pursue substantive changes that enhance a shared purpose. This process is potent when its participants have hope – the belief that one knows how perform and is willing to direct and sustain consistent effort to accomplish goals that matter. Hope requires three steps from leadership:
1. Help identifying meaningful goals that really matter
2. Help understanding what it takes to achieve those goals
3. Encouragement to assume responsibility for investing effort
The first two steps toward hope are relatively straightforward, but it’s probably where most leadership surprisingly flounders. Do the people in your group know what really matters to the long term success of your organization? Do they know the most important things they need to do on a daily basis to help the organization thrive? Do they understand how and why their daily behavior makes a difference? How do you know?
The third step won’t happen without the first two, but even when the first two steps have been done well, it’s no guarantee that everyone will choose to put forth effort to perform. Leadership can never provide hope because ultimately hope is an individual choice that involves uncertainty, risk, responsibility, patience, perseverance, and fear.
Leadership lives and dies on its ability to help people move forward through fear in the right direction, in the right ways. When we commit to the process of leadership, we can never be responsible for the hope of those we engage with, but we must always hold ourselves accountable.