Great leaders have been described as “peddlers of hope”. One example is Kenneth I. Chenault. He was named was named chairman and CEO of American Express only five months before the tragic events of September 11, 2001. The American Express Manhattan headquarters is located directly across from the World Trade Center. When the twin towers collapsed, his company was damaged in many ways: it required emergency relocation of nearly 4000 employees, many who were in a panic of missing friends and loved ones by the blast; the office was shut down for nearly a year; major lines of business for American Express including credit cards, financial and investment services, travel and insurance were hit hard.
Fortunately for his employees and his company, Chenault was a resonant leader. He not only connected with the fears and reality of his people, but he gave them hope. His leadership was characterized by a quote from Napoleon’s playbook: define reality, give hope. Chenault started by reflecting on the question, “How do I construct a vision to engender hope and motivate people to reach challenging objectives?” During the crisis he gave hope by being present, visible and communicating constantly, listening to people’s fears and helping them maintain their composure.
Like Kenneth I. Chenault, great leaders are peddlers of hope.
- They don’t simply focus on what’s wrong with the world, but how we can fix it.
- They are more about what they are for, than what they are against.
- They don’t ignore reality, but engender hope in spite of it.
Our world needs hope when we think about many statistics (and this is just the tip of the iceberg):
- There are more than 30 Million slaves in the world today
- One million children exploited by global commercial sex trade every year.
- Drug use among high school and youth is alarming
- Approximately 9.2 million children under the age of 5 die each year, mostly from preventable diseases. That’s approximately 25,000 children each day.
- 3.575 million people die each year from water related diseases (that is equal to the entire city of Los Angeles
- Add to this the inequality and abuse of women, extreme poverty, global food crisis and many other global problems.
The reality of global problems can be overwhelming.
But, great leaders give HOPE.
Jesus, whom many consider to be the greatest leader of all time gave hope. Hope for change; hope from our own selfishness; hope for women; hope for children, hope for salvation, hope that we can become better.
Today, the world celebrates Good Friday. The reality of this day historically is that Jesus was killed by being crucified on a cross. With his death on this day over 2000 years ago was buried the hopes and dreams of many people…or was it? This inspiring video reminds me as a leader that no matter how bleak the outlook, I can have hope.
As a leader, like Kenneth I. Chenault and Jesus, I must not only define reality, but I must be a peddler of hope.
Enjoy the video.