Hope and Leadership

hope and leadership

Hope is a subject that is near and dear to my heart. I believe that through the years and my many careers, including cardiac nursing, children’s ministry, and now church consulting, the common thread has been giving the gift of hope to those around me. Today we are honored to host this post by Drs. Jeanie Cockell and Joan McArthur-Blair as they explain what hope in leadership looks like. 


Hope is a practice in leadership that comes to some easily and for others is a complex and lifelong journey. Like all practices of merit, finding hope takes courage. It seems simplistic to state that hope comes from paying attention to the hopeful path, but it is true. In all the stories in this chapter, there is a common theme of noticing and of practicing. Noticing is the ability to see and construct hope from what is present in the environment. Leaders must create the space for hope to both arise and survive. In her book The Joy of Appreciative Living, Jacqueline Kelm writes about creating joy as a practice of commitment. Exercising hope in leadership is similar. Leaders need to practice it every day. If they do not, they fail to see that in this moment there is always something that can be nurtured and fostered. Joan reflects:


I have experienced betrayal in my leadership work, sometimes by actions of my own making and sometimes through the actions of others. In every betrayal, I found that hope and new paths appeared by focusing on my strengths and those of others. Those paths might have been rocky, steep, and untraveled, but they always led to something amazing if I paused to see hope.


The focus on one’s strengths and those of others is part of the technique we mentioned earlier: tracking and fanning.


Tracking is simply noting and seeing what you want more of in the world; fanning is the encouraging of that behavior so that it increases (Bushe 2001). The practice of hope in leadership is also like this. It is something one must track and fan within oneself every day. As one of our interviewees said about practicing hope: “Find the goodness in other people, catch them doing something right, and build on that and perceive that they are good.” This leader tracked goodness and fanned it by building on what people were doing right.


Leading is hope in action, and if one can practice hope and begin to understand how to hone a hopeful view, then leading becomes more meaningful, more powerful. Leaders who find a way to bring the element of hope to bear on their work and let it sustain them over the years have a place from which to view the next steps. As Joan says:


In a landscape littered with paths and choices, hope will walk with us if we encourage it—a tiny hand in ours leaning into an unknown future.



About the authors


Dr. Jeanie CockellandDr. Joan McArthur-Blair,co-presidents of leadership consulting firmCockell McArthur-Blair Consulting, are the co-authors ofBuilding Resilience with Appreciative Inquiry. The veteran consultants’ latest book explores how leaders can use the practice of Appreciative Inquiry to weather the storms they’ll inevitably encounter and be resilient.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *