“Hope is not a strategy. Luck is not a factor. Fear is not an option.” -James Cameron

I love this quote. It’s saved in my phone, on my computer, and in the back of my mind. I’ve even considered buying a t-shirt of it. But it doesn’t tell the whole story. I’ve already written about the roles of luck and fear in leadership, but to me, hope deserves more credit. Hope may not get us going in the right direction, it may not be a strategy, but it is what keeps us going once we’ve found the right direction.

Remember, leadership is mimetic—people will, at the very least, unconsciously model the behavior of the leader. Combined with the Peacock Effect, where the group forms a collective ego over time, the ultimate character of the group hinges on how you behave and think as a leader. If you lack a sense of hope, people will begin to lose confidence in you, or worse, in themselves. If you express doubt to a few, the entire group inevitably loses hope. If you instill optimism in a few, you make it possible for hope to become contagious. If success is far away, build confidence by breaking hope down into smaller goals and smaller wins. Do everything you can to infuse the group with hope. For, without hope, failure is inevitable.

James Cameron is right, hope is not a strategy. It’s not a course of action. If you’re relying on hope, the ice you stand on is awfully thin. If you’re hoping for sunny skies, or hoping to hit the jackpot, what you’re not doing is improving. What you’re not doing is preparing. What you’re not doing is planning. And what you’re not doing is giving people hope.

Hope isn’t sexy. Hope isn’t reliable. But it is necessary to the fighting spirit of any team. It must be the driving force behind your strategy. It must be the fuel that powers the motor. Your people need to know that success is possible. They need to know that their time and effort is going to lead to something bigger and better. When leading, you need to ensure a place for hope. Allow hope to saturate the air, fill empty spaces, dot i’s, cross t’s, and punctuate sentences. Hope is not a strategy, but it must inhabit the heart.

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