Lead with HOPE – not goals – in tough times

In Year 8, my friend Gavin and I wrote a science fiction play about a group of ‘old people’ living through a world-wide plague. We had a huge fight over the plot. I thought it didn’t matter if everyone died because they were all 50 (ancient) anyway. Gavin wanted to show that hope would save the human race. Even in his early teens, Gavin knew that resilience and optimistic ‘future casting’ are closely connected. I explore this link further in this month’s video.


These days, I realise Gavin has been proved right. There are numerous studies showing hope plays a crucial role in human survival, particularly during chaotic times. When you think hopefully, you’re optimising on your mind’s ability to ‘time travel’ and imagine things turning out well. That boosts your creativity and increases your behavioural flexibility. Plus, it decreases your stress levels. All of which makes you a better leader.


Presently, many wise leaders are using the power of hope to revive team mojo and motivation. No! They’re not setting gruelling KPIs or cracking productivity whips. Instead, they’re helping people envision positive futures. They’re focusing on culture-building, mission-building and – my favourite leadership tool of all – storytelling.


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The fact is – the human brain loves stories. As Gavin argued in Year 8, audiences watch plays because they want them to end well. In the same way, teams work hard because they want their projects to go well. Great playwrights weave hope through every drama. As I explained in my recent blog post [link to blog] on fostering hope and resilience in teams, great leaders do the same.


It turns out my friend Gavin became a great leader, inspiring many young people to live with hope and impact. But did he and I weave hope into our play’s ending? Well, sort of (after all, I can be stubborn). We compromised and wrote an ambiguous closing scene. As the sun sank dramatically offstage, the plague survivors cooked up a ‘final cure’ for the ‘final plague’. In 2022, I only hope the positive reading of that scene is the one that plays out in real life