By Catherine DeVrye
'A leader is a dealer in hope.' So said Napoleon Bonaparte before his
death in 1821. Nearly two centuries later, we need hope more than ever in
our organizations and our personal lives.
Have you ever lost an important business deal or contract, or more
importantly, lost a loved one or friend? Do lost health or wealth, loss of
job or loss of perspective worry you? Whether that loss is temporary or
permanent, you need to dig deep for courage to get on with getting on to
find hope in seemingly hopeless situations.
When you've lost something that is special in your life, it's
important to find hope.
On September 11, 2001, I happened to be addressing the World Airline
Entertainment Association. I felt sickened by global events and also by
bronchitis, when a friend phoned to say her mother had died of cancer.
Certainly, she shared compassion with thousands of people on the other
side of the globe, but the loss of one life weighed far heavier on her
mind. To her, talk of the 'world changing' was more than a media cliché -
the world always changes - but her own life had tumbled and changed
irrevocably with the death of the one person who had always been central
to her world.
As I sat at the airport, feeling somewhat despondent, I couldn't help
but think that, undoubtedly, global tragedy impacts on us all in various
ways, from the personal to the economic. Yet, ultimately, the everyday,
non-publicized tragedies cause the greatest grief, wherever we live on the
My thoughts were interrupted when a vibrant young woman introduced
herself and said she had been inspired by one of my presentations, had
since been promoted to London and took only six books with her, including
the last one I'd written.
'Whenever I'm feeling down, I delve into that book and magically find
just the right words of inspiration and encouragement,' she enthused.
'Oh, what chapter was that? I could do with a little inspiration myself
at the moment!' I asked, before smiling at the irony.
Recently, a senior executive who is one of my corporate clients called,
ostensibly just to say hello. 'How's things, Bill?' I asked.
'Oh I'm fine', he replied, but something in the tone of his voice
implied that he wasn't OK.
'Hmm. You don't sound your normal self.' I ventured.
'Well, uh, my father died this afternoon and I'm feeling kinda flat'.
What a classic understatement I thought, in the same breath wondering
why he had called me, rather than one of his close friends or family? I
offered words of condolence while we chatted at length, he was emotional
but contained and in control as he believed his 'role' dictated. Hours
later, I still wondered why he had called me. Then I realized that he was
the eldest son, head of his own family, chief of a large corporation and
in fulfilling those various roles of leadership, felt that he needed to be
perceived as a pillar of strength, unable to show emotion or perceived
weakness even though what he was really feeling was not at all weak but a
normal human condition of grief.
Yes, it can be lonely at the top (or even in the middle!) and one
should never feel too proud to ask for help from others who have walked
that rocky road. People often ask how I coped when my folks died when I
was 21? What choice did I have? Cope or crumble -- and, I had no intention
of crumbling. Since those early dark days, I've been privileged to meet
world leaders, sports stars and music icons and was surprised to discover
that, at times, they all share the same sense of loss and uncertainty as
my next-door neighbor or a stranger on a plane. Behind the facade, no life
is perfect and the grass isn't always greener on the other side of the
fence. It never has been. It never will be.
But, today, and every day, we need to keep our plans and dreams alive
and must not allow ourselves to be swamped by nightmares of negativity and
despair. Hope helps us to cope with tough times.
Help…others, and never be too proud to ask for help yourself.
As an executive your role is to help others help themselves, especially
during tough times.
Optimize…opportunities. In every business or personal problem,
there is always an opportunity so remain optimistic.
Persist… no matter what. Tough times don't last and tough
people do, so never give up, in order to move from a victim of change to a
victor of change.
Empower…others and give yourself permission to be empowered to
take time out for yourself, as you can't take care of others if you don't
take care of yourself.
No matter what the time of the year it is, today is still the first day
of the rest of your life, so there's no better time to get some hope
happening in your life and in your organization.
About the author: Catherine DeVrye is the author
of the #1 best seller 'Good Service is Good Business' and the newly
released inspirational gift book 'Hope Happens!…words of encouragement
for tough times'. Winner of the Australian Executive Woman of the Year
Award, she speaks internationally on managing change, customer service and
turning obstacles to opportunities. www.hopehappensnow.com
Phone: 61-2-9977-3177. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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