Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Biggest Challenge for Leaders?

I was in a wide ranging leadership philosophy conversation the other day with a very accomplished leader, Henrietta Belcher-Stack.  She asked me a simple question:

"What is the biggest challenge you find leaders face today?"

My answer was quick and a bit surprising to me - "A sense of optimism." 

I hadn't expected the question and I had not framed my thinking in such a way that would establish a common thread among the hundreds of leadership conversations I have had in recent weeks.  But my gut response stands after contemplating my reaction to validate it's truth.  I believe many leaders have been battered to their core during this prolonged economic recession.  Countries, communities, companies, families, and individuals have been squeezed financially and have had to alter plans, goals, and dreams so often they have become jaded and cynical in coping with the next round of life altering bad news.  This prolonged period of scarcity, uncertainty, trepidation, and fear has worn many leaders out and drained their reserve of optimism.

This is our situation. Our world has been changed by the recession and we all have and will continue to make sacrifices to adjust to our new realities.

That said, we all have something positive in our lives; we all still have dreams; we have the ability to make a difference; we all still have a chance to serve someone or something we love.  We all have something that inspires us and moves us to action.

It's easy to be optimistic during times of plenty; we need leaders to step forward and create possibility when the future is in doubt.  Remember three rules of hope:

1)  Optimism and hope are choices you make based on the possibilities you see in the future.

2)  Optimism is contagious and inspirational.

3)  Committed actions start with optimistic hope that the results will create a better situation.

I know we have all been impacted by the recent economic tough times, but it's time to create hope for ourselves and the people around us, regardless of the circumstances facing us. 

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