Are You Leading with Fear or Hope?

leadership developmentOne can’t help but read the headlines today and get a little depressed by all the fear that is being put out there. Whether it’s stories about Ebola, ISIS, elections, global warming or just about anything else that someone has an opinion on fear mongering seems to be the order of the day. We rarely see anything these days that is hopeful or celebrates all that is really quite good about our communities, our country, and our world.

Why is that? Bottom line, fear and hope are both motivators and fear tends to be more powerful because people are scared into protecting “what is” – what is theirs, what they believe, how things are and more. Hope on the other hand is asking you to believe in something that isn’t available today, rather to believe in what “could” be. We can’t touch or feel it yet so in order to believe we must have faith – in the idea, in the possibility, that’s it better than what “is,” and mostly, in leadership. Fear is easier to believe. Hope takes faith and faith is hard. Listen to any campaign on any side of the aisle and they are all talking “fear” – what you won’t have if you vote for the other candidate or initiative, not what you will have if you vote for them.

This is where true leadership can show up. It’s easy to scare people. Especially with 24/7 access to news in numerous channels from TV to social media, and with every outlet wanting so desperately to get the scoop that rumors and misinformation are spread like wildfire.

I had a woman tell me that Ebola was always fatal, that it’s airborne, and that she was keeping her kids home from school. I pointed out to her with documentation and resources that she was wrong on all counts. She was shocked and couldn’t believe what she “knew to be true” because she heard it on the radio actually wasn’t.

How do we lead with hope? President Obama did it in his first campaign for election quite successfully, painting a wonderful picture of who we are, how far we have come, and what is possible. I used it once to turn around a company as I needed everyone to believe that success was possible, even though I wasn’t so sure myself. It’s about envisioning a future that we can all share, and even if it’s a stretch, it’s close enough that we can believe it’s possible. It’s hopeful, not fearful. Every great leader has used hope in their leadership style to rally people to a common cause or goal. Lincoln told wonderful stories about what could be and always believed that things could be better. Jesus was a great example of a hope-based leadership style!

Think back to your best leadership moments and I’ll bet you’ll find you led with hope, not fear. Fear-based leadership is for small thinkers, for status quo, for protecting what “I” have. As you lead your teams, your companies, or your life, examine your leadership style. If you find yourself on the fear side more than hope, you might want to change the balance of power.

photo credit: Jimee, Jackie, Tom & Asha via photopin cc