Hope as the leadership competence for a growth culture

Is hope the driving competence that energises everything else?  Or, when we lose hope for improvement in the future do we then unconsciously put aside this opportunity? I run into this question during executive workshops where I notice that some participants indicate towards the end that they think it’s great, but nothing is going to change anyway. Hope appears to be the driver here that makes the difference in leaders who are open to continuous improvement and leaders who seem resigned to it.

If I am honest, hope has also been my motivation to keep moving forward, but also to often be very unhappy when certain expectations did not come true after all.  I therefore recognise the highs and lows between hope and lost hope myself.  But also through my work with children, I see more and more in recent years that lost hope (hope for a better climate, love, success, hope in the future) and even depression, is a damper on the development of many other competences they need.

My motivation to understand the different aspects of hope as a competence for the future therefore comes again from young people who are determining the future of work, our organisations and society.  But it is not only children (and their parents as supporters) who benefit. Managers who want to create a climate with their employees where well-being and growth go hand in hand will find added value in a positive approach to hope that increases commitment and involvement.

Competences that support us as human beings in a world in increasingly rapid change

In my recent book Learning Ecosystems, I emphasise that as humans, as leaders, we need to invest more in competences that support us in a world in ever faster change. A world where we live together with artificial intelligence that challenges our added value as human beings in many ways. Yet AI will not be able to approach certain competences that make us unique as humans and therefore indispensable, even when ‘Singularity’ becomes a reality.  Curiosity, Imagination, Optimism, Empathy, Entrepreneurship, Openness, Resilience and Consilience (my personal favourite) are purely human emotional competences that make the difference.

The pessimist sees difficulties in every opportunity, the optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty

Winston Churchill

However, what I did not discuss in my book is hope, or how hope when it is not there, negatively affects our ability to see the future, to imagine it, to create it.  That this competence greatly influences our behaviour, our attitude in life and our ability to shape the future ourselves is what I myself learnt during the “future thinking” workshops I do.

Usually I notice that curiosity and entrepreneurship are present to a great extent, otherwise they would not participate I think.  Still, openness, optimism and, above all, hope seem to be at the root of getting started with “reverse engineering” which is the method to create a value-driven, sustainable, agile strategy that supports the organisation, its employees, and by extension society. 

Openness to discuss a reality other than your own and optimism to see opportunities in the problems are evident. But I find that a proper understanding of real hope to get commitment from participants is necessary to actively help shape the future even after the session.

Real hope from informed engagement leads to growth.

From my own experiences, I also know that hope sometimes leads to disappointment so giving up hope is sometimes the easy way out. However, hope is not so simple and unambiguous as it comes in different forms and therefore leads to different results, consciously and unconsciously.  Real hope is what I want to encourage as a competence to shape the future in a nimble way.  This real hope combines a hopeful outlook with a firm grip on reality that forms the basis for commitment, foresight and accurate reality support.

© 2005-2009 by Leland R. Beaumont

When we face a problem, we approach it from a predetermined outlook we have about the outcome. This outlook is partly determined by previous experiences and can be very positive to very negative depending on the problem and the person facing it.  Even more so, our understanding of the problem often determines the outcome and thus our expectation of the future.  A correct understanding of the problem is therefore often the first step to discovering opportunities for change.  It is in this reality that we take a positive approach towards solutions of the problem with a viable outcome.

This holistic approach to shaping the future hopefully from informed and accurate reality is what distinguishes exeptional leaders from others.  In doing so, they also take into account all stakeholders who shape their hope from a different reality.   They give a place to doubt, fear and share information with everyone in the organisation to include them in the strategy.

Understanding hope and how it supports employee engagement is also the basis of a learning ecosystem.  Only when we understand the motivations of our employees, the origins of certain problems and connect them, we can take the first steps towards improvement. Taking the time to step back and explore the root – cause of everything will not only determine the success of a new strategy but also support the well-being of everyone.


Learning Ecosystems support executives in a world in increasingly rapid change. It contains case studies and tips for learning ecosystems. Executive workshops and keynotes to guide a journey or inspire employees can be requested at katja@habitofimprovement.com

Published by Katja Habit Of Improvement

Lifelong learning and an unstoppable drive for innovation, creativity, entrepreneurship and philanthropy. Katja Schipperheijn is a digital learning strategist and internationally recognized consultant and keynote speaker on learning and engagement in the connected world. Her area of expertise focuses on the interaction of people and technology to achieve sustainable growth based on commitment and well-being. She has worked for more than 15 years with tech companies and learning organizations and holds a Master Degree in Economical Science, an Executive MBA from the Antwerp Management School and Digital Learning Strategy from MITSloan

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