Optimistic Leadership: Inspiring People with Hope

A week ago, I watched the movie, Shawshank Redemption for the 32nd time.  As I was watching, I stopped and thought, Why do I enjoy watching this movie so much?  I realized that it was because of its message of hope.

Andy, the main character, is wrongly jailed in Shawshank Prison. Throughout the movie, he continually tries to explain hope to Red, a long-time inmate, in order that he would find it himself. Red had been in jail for so long that he had lost all hope. Still, Andy continued to build a deep relationship with Red so that he would trust him and his message. Well, without giving too much of the plot away, Andy's inspiration and hope leads Red to a letter that Andy leaves for him to find after getting out of prison.  It says, "Remember Red, hope is a good thing,  maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies."   Andy continues to inspire Red, to give him hope and it eventually unleashes hope in Red so much so that Red takes a risk to find Andy and to ultimately find hope in himself. 

My question for us is: How do we as leaders inspire and give hope to our people?  When was the last time you inspired hope at work or at home?

                      GLORY LAND !!

                    GLORY LAND !!

The week before last I was able to stay with some old-time friends who live in Colorado.  A fellow adventurer, Kevin and I went bouldering near his home.  Since moving Colorado more than a decade ago, he still had not been bouldering because of kids, work, life, etc. My weekend visit would finally give him the opportunity build our relationship, eat and boulder. We found this hiking trail that had potential for bouldering based on some recommendations and we started our hike. And then I saw it…glory land!  

Ahead was an amazing gaggle of huge boulders that led to an amazing rock at the top.  We were off and the closer we got to the top, the steeper it got. I knew this would be the case and for me, it was that much better. I love the challenge of increased physical standards and the need for more strategic planning. We made our way to a place in the rocks where it was getting pretty difficult and I could see that Kevin was a bit more hesitant. I just kept saying that we would find a way, and each time, Kevin seemed to be encouraged or more hopeful, as if he was leaning on my confidence.

We came to a tiny hole under a few huge rocks. I have gone in these types of holes before; sometimes they are cool avenues to places you didn't know existed, but other times they are just dead ends.  I asked Kevin if he wanted to try the hole. He was totally up for it in spite of the fact that he thought he noticed animal tracks heading into it. Yikes!

He headed in and squeezed through. His voice became more and more hopeful as he made comments like, “It goes up and to the right" and “We can make it, Come on!” It was a joy to hear him get excited with the hole we found.  As I squeezed my way through, I found out why he sounded so hopeful. As I came out of the hole, I found myself on top of a huge rock overlooking an amazing valley below. What a joy! It was inspiring to see the view, but even more inspiring to see Kevin's face as he looked across the valley floor below.  I think Kevin will be doing a bit more bouldering after this perseverance, hope and reward.

A day later, my hope-inspiring situation had changed significantly. I was sitting in at work and found out that I would have to leave my friends that I’ve developed deep relationships with for over six years. Yes, this means that my job position was no longer needed and I will be looking for new opportunities for me to grow as a leader and hopefully inspire others along the way.  

After the initial shock and disappointment of the news, I’ve been able to reflect on the situation. I’ve resolved that it isn’t the job that I’m going to miss, but definitely the people.  It became evident that relationships are so much more important to me than anything else. This past week has been amazing being able to talk to and receive emails from people who have graciously communicated how I’ve impacted them and given them hope.  In turn, these people have inspired me and given me hope. These are true friends and I will miss them more than I can say.  With their help, I am hopeful and am excited to see what adventure is out there waiting for me to learn and grow from.

I would highly encourage you to watch this video by Shimon Schocken called, “What a Bike Ride Can Teach You.”  Shimon shares an awesome story of his vision to give hope to young men that were without hope.  This video shows how he inspired hope in those he had the opportunity to lead.

How are you doing when it comes to inspiring hope to those you have an opportunity to lead?  How will you inspire hope tomorrow or next week?  I encourage you to reflect on this and then be intentional to make a change, to inspire more, and to give hope.